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In pursuit of quality

Devolution has brought a range of new perspectives on the role of further education throughout the United Kingdom. Tangible differences are emerging in the ways colleges are managed and provide services.

Scottish college management is about to have a radical overhaul following an official inquiry. Government officials are set to demand better gender and age balance on governing boards, greater staff involvement in target-setting, improved quality assurance and more coherent management organisation (pages 22-23).

The Welsh Assembly has taken a hard line on governance, banning any newly-appointed clerk being drawn from the college senior management team. The Association of College Registrars nd Administrators say they will oppose any such moves in England - as an attack on college autonomy (pages 26-29).

Government officials are always tempted to cherry-pick policies from their neighbours. In theory, it's about promoting good practice; in fact, it's about centralising power. If they do so with the post-16 reforms before Parliament, FE will end-up in an inglorious mess. HR would spell Heath Robinson, not human resources.

The bill must devolve responsibility to the 47 local learning and skills councils in England. They must act as brokers for providers and customers in FE, not centralisers. As commentators argue on pages 38-39, by such means best practice will spread.

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