Dewar's last slice of the FE;Opinion

26th February 1999 at 00:00
THE SECRETARY of State calls it "a funding revolution". Not only does further education receive extra money. Sizeable chunks are earmarked for specific projects such as widening access and developing information technology (page eight). But principals who continually deplore the state of their budgets, despite the imminence of money promised through the comprehensive review, will see little sign of a revolution in their fortunes. And classroom lecturers are bound to be even more sceptical.

Donald Dewar wants to occupy high ground before surrendering direct control of FE to the funding council, which has just had its first meeting and assumes full responsibility in July. Mr Dewar also, it appears, wants the council members to be aware of the Government's priorities, hence the salami slices.

Perhaps we shall see why when the strategic framework is uncovered, a long delayed ceremony now marked down for March. The funding allocations suggest that clarity of purpose is needed. Are we in a period of expansion or not? Ministers say yes, but the funding regime inhibits enterprise in recruiting to popular courses. Are principals expected to collaborate or compete? Again the message is confusing.

Experience from higher education suggests that the funding council will be more open but it will still find difficulty in devising an accepted formula and meeting the expectations of principals and Government ministers.

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