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Nuts and bolts FE;Leading Article;Opinion

"HOW MANY computer technicians and commis chefs will actually be needed locally in the next three years?" Where the Government's strategic framework for further education (FE Focus, page 30) gets down to the basics, it will strike a chord in the sector. Where in large part it reiterates messages about good governance and co-operation, it will be skim-read, if at all.

The only group that might benefit from cover-to-cover study are members of the new Scottish Further Education Funding Council, for whom it will be a good briefing. Not that the paper is about money, except where it points to examples of Government generosity. But the SFEFC will want to be convinced that colleges are well run and doing their best for students and the community before allotting millions of pounds. The framework is a checklist for college managers even though it adjures them not to indulge in "box-ticking bureaucracy".

The Association of Scottish College bridles at criticism of the gap between the best college managements and the worst. Yet much of the framework is about the difference between conditions today and at the point of incorporation six years ago. It would be surprising if the necessary change in management culture had yet spread into every nook and cranny.

Still, momentary indulgence in schadenfreude is permissible in Scotland: regular readers of FE Focus will have noticed the number of colleges south of the border with a horrendous legacy of mismanagement. Paying attention to the framework document will do far more than keep Scottish colleges on the straight and narrow. It would ensure that they keep tabs on untapped students in their area, and might even lead some of them eventually to amalgamate, although there are no handy hints on how to turn co-operation into merger.

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