Accredit to the sector
Research from Barnsley College shows that, despite its intake being skewed to lower socio-economic groups and late developers, success rates are on a par with university national averages.
It is not only in higher education that colleges are making strides. The Barnsley findings are a significant advance. Colleges are forging ahead with new-style action research - another area until recently considered the exclusive domain of universities.
The burgeoning FE research community is driven by two needs: to identify what communities and industry require and to ask how a college staff and resources may be best deployed. Some universities - Warwick, for example - go out of their way to help; others remain elitist.
This is not a takeover bid for universities, but the breaking of groud in a more inclusive learning agenda - as we report in detail, starting on page 8.
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State, is rightly concerned about "academic drift" and a re-run of the polytechnics-versus-universities debate. That is why he wants to keep a rein on FE.
But the argument for colleges developing their own degrees and doing their own research is different in quality and quantity. There are no longer any "sectors" - not universities, colleges or, come to that, schools. There is a rapid coalescing and merging around grey areas: post-14, public-private, FE-HE and in adult learning. Companies offer degrees in-house, schools offer university foundation-year courses.
Within 10 years Tony Blair wants half the population to be graduates by the time they are 30; David Blunkett wants 700,000 new FE students in the next two years. Most of all, communities and employers increasingly seek a one-stop learning shop.
One conclusion should be that colleges must have the chance - under strict quality controls - to accredit their own degrees. And the door must be opened wider to the various pots of research money.