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Single forum hopes are raised

Ambitious plans for a single further education forum representing all British colleges came a step nearer this week when the 115 sixth-form colleges proposed to join the planned merger, writes Ian Nash.

The Association of British Colleges will be formed in August when the Association for Colleges and Colleges' Employers' Forum merge. Moves by some members of the sixth-form colleges association (APVIC) to include their organisation were narrowly defeated last year at its annual conference.

They feared that they would lose their distinctive influence over the 16-19 age group. But the executive has drawn up a plan to keep its identity and forge a closer alliance.

Howard Clarke, APVIC chairman, said: "It is a lot clearer now what the ABC will look like and we can strengthen the 16-19 full-time element." APVIC will also need AFC and CEF approval.

Some FE colleges may object. The 18 APVIC executive members, who all support merger, want representation on the management board, a member appointed to head a group for 16-19 issues and a slightly lower subscription.

The lower rate is justified, they say, because they negotiated different contracts to FE counterparts. It would tie them to the Sixth Form Colleges' Employers' Forum for some industrial negotiations at first.

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