Editor's comment

9th June 2006 at 01:00
What has the world gained from the multiplicity of quangos on Quality Street and in management-land? The conference circuit is certainly burgeoning. There are more publications than ever claiming to give sounder advice. And the bureaucracy mountain is still high. But how much real and beneficial communication is there?

Visiting many a forum for debate in FE, or grappling with the latest pronouncements from the government agencies, is like entering the Tower of Babel.

The excuse usually given is that the language is group dialogue, shorthand for those in the know. The trouble is all the groups speak different languages or they import ideas from "foreign" lands with yet more new and confusing terminology. It is a costly enterprise that leaves students, those who use FE, clueless.

Occasionally, some bright spark points and yells: "Look the Emperor has no clothes." One such is Swindon lecturer Nigel Newton (opposite) who has the temerity to suggest that the corporate language and complex bean-counting imposed on colleges from the private sector is at best a distraction and at worst deeply damaging. Add to this the appalling Newspeak language - with words such as "stakeholder", "partnering" and "personalisation" - and you end up with total paralysis of the mind if not the entire institute.

This has happened in the overcrowded "quality" arena, where the language of the over-used gerunds and abstract nouns turn good tight prose into treacle.

Andrew Thomson, Quality Improvement Agency chief executive, put it politely when told the annual conference of the agency: "We need to make sure we each mean and support the same things when advising on, influencing and assessing quality." In other words, let us speak with the same tongue.

Currently, the 10 or more quangos, 25 skills councils and 900-plus awarding bodies vying for a share of the FE quality control market fail to do so.

So, let us see something radical from the Government. Scrap the awarding bodies. Neither America nor Australia has them, nor do they have the attendant pound;500 million bureaucracy bill. Give colleges lightly policed accrediting powers instead.

In the meantime, spell out clearly which duties the other "quality"

agencies will be stripped of to justify the QIA's existence. This is, after all, the agency ministers hope will help rebuild trust between the professionals, the Government and its agents.

Maybe then, we can develop a common language within further education to serve and enrich what is on offer.

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