LSC lays down challenge
By 2006, 72 per cent of qualifications begun in colleges must be achieved.
Colleges and other learning providers that "have no reasonable prospect" of meeting the targets face the threat of having their funding withdrawn.
The new targets have been set by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and are detailed in its Quality Improvement Strategy document, published this month.
The document also sets out a 20 per cent improvement target for adult education institutions that provide further education. Those offering work-based training are asked to make a 33 per cent improvement.
But the LSC targets have been attacked by the Association of Colleges (AoC) who say successful colleges risk being branded failures as the targets take no account of the progress made by learners.
Judith Norrington, AoC director of curriculum and quality, said: "To say we need to drive targets up is fine but we also need to be aware of what the learner requires.
"Motivations for learning are many. Often learners simply want toenhance their knowledge and a qualification is actually quite low on their list of priorities.
"A learner may come to college to study just a couple of units rather than the whole course. The learner succeeds in their aim, but the college is seen as a failure in the terms of this document.
"We have to take account of the aims of our students. That's why we strongly support the drive to recognise 'distance travelled' and 'value added'".
The LSC, however, insists targets are realistic and that most colleges are on track to achieve them.
Avril Willis, the LSC's director for quality and standards, said: "These targets reflect consultations we've had with our key partners, including college principals.
"We have checked them against targets colleges set themselves in their three-year development plans and we feel they are realistic.
"Learners deserve good quality provision. We'll encourage and support colleges but, if at the end, there's no chance of an improvement, we will stop funding."
In the LSC strategy, all providers are expected to highlight how they will achieve their targets in a three-year development plan.
The plans contain targets in student numbers, employer engagement, success rates, and professional qualifications for teachers, lecturers and trainers.
The LSC document repeats the target that by 2006, 90 per cent of full-time and 60 per cent of part-time teachers in colleges will hold a professional teaching qualification.
The document also sets the target that by 2006, 12 per cent of learners will be with FE providers considered excellent.
It adds: "Providers whose success rates are below the minimum standard will need to show how they will meet, or do better than, the standards in their three-year development plans. Progress will be monitored by local LSC staff. If necessary, we will intervene.
"At one end of the spectrum, our intervention will take the form of a support programme and at the other end, we will no longer fund providers who have no reasonable prospect of meeting the standards."
Targets to be reached by 2006
* 72 per cent of qualifications begun in colleges must be achieved (up from 59 per centin 2001)
* 20 per cent improvement for adult education institutions that provide FE (up to 67 per cent
* 33 per cent improvement for providers of work-based training (up to 48 per cent)
* 90 per cent of full-time and 60 per cent of part-time teachers in colleges to hold a professional teaching qualification
* 12 per cent of learners to be with further education providers considered excellent (up from 2 per cent in 2000)