Forums 'must have place for colleges'

9th March 2001 at 00:00
Colleges should have a guaranteed place on the new local economic forums that are central to the Executive's learning and employment strategies. The Association of Scottish Colleges has told ministers that their proposals do not sufficiently recognise the place of FE.

There is so far only one forum, in Borders. But as the concept spreads nationally the balance between optimum size and adequate representation of key sectors will be a major talking point. The Executive's proposals suggest treating higher and further education institutions as one.

The ASC argues that "as a minimum" there should be a place for each of the two sectors. That has already been proposed for the forum that will represent Forth valley.

Since colleges are statutorily entrusted with providing learning programmes leading to vocational qualifications, they sy it would be inappropriate for them to be excluded.

When Henry McLeish, the then Lifelong Learning Minister, set out his economic action plan last July, he said that the forums should cut out duplication and waste by local agencies. They would be charged with securing employment for all, improving basic adult education and widening access to FE and HE.

That would free local enterprise companies for wider responsibilities such as reducing the gaps in skills, productivity, entrepreneurship and e-commerce.

When the Parliament's lifelong learning committee discussed the proposals last month, Alex Neil, its chairman, said it was important that if someone from FEwas representing the learning industry, they should be required to consult widely with colleges and universities "so that the dialogue would not be restricted".

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