Further education and training featured prominently in all three main party manifestos published this week, with broad agreement on the need for more freedom for FE. Labour and the Conservatives committed to greater autonomy, while the Liberal Democrats promised to reform "rigid" national pay and conditions rules to give colleges more freedom over staff recruitment.
There was also agreement on the need for more training and skills through apprenticeships and adult vocational education. Both the Lib Dems and Tories would plunder the Train to Gain budget to fund their plans.
However, key differences exist. The Tories would create a Further Education Funding Council and the Lib Dems a Council for Adult Skills and Higher Education, while Labour would continue with the Skills Funding Agency and the Young People's Learning Agency. The Lib Dems are the only party to commit to ending the funding gap between schools and colleges.
News, pages 4-5.