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Profit at a cost

I'm not surprised that Neil Reed ("Teaching is only half the story", August 14), an associate director of a private consultancy that advises FE colleges on finance and management, considers finance and management to be so important. Nor am I surprised that his thinking is imbued with the management speak of teams "delivering" learning. Learning, unlike the morning post and pizzas, cannot be delivered, as it is not a product but a process.

I am, however, surprised by the slack assumptions in his letter. I don't think that what's wrong with FE boils down to a lack of focus on teaching and learning, nor have I ever suggested that senior management should have a "significant" teaching load.

My argument is that education - and not "the delivery of management and learning" - is, or should be, the main focus of FE colleges. And that a financially well-run college is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for success. Unlike private consultancies, whose prime purpose is profit, the raison d'etre of FE colleges is further education.

Frank Coffield, Emeritus professor of education, Institute of Education, London University.

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