A research project has been launched to gauge the value of FE colleges to their local communities, writes Ben Russell.
Staff at the Further Education Development Agency hope the study will help promote colleges' role in the Government's proposed regional development agencies being piloted by the new environment and transport "super-ministry".
FEDA's research will concentrate on college's perceptions of their worth, with questionnaires going out to colleges, followed by a series of conferences. A report and good practice guide will be published in September.
FEDA chief executive Stephen Crowne said: "The enormous value which FE adds to the local and regional economy is often not recognised outside the FE sector, yet colleges are key players.
"They need support to develop their strategic, business and employment-related role and FEDA will offer this through the Furthering Local Economies initiative.
"The Labour party has long recognised that FE has a major role to play in regional development. this is made explicit in the Millan Report, which proposes a key role for further education in regional development agencies, alongside that of other regional partners.
"The strategic research being undertaken by FEDA through the Furthering Local Economies initiative will give us and the FE sector the first-ever facts and figures on just how crucial a player FE is."