THE funding council's chairman has promised a "dynamic sector - dynamic in its delivery, dynamic in its development and dynamic in its foundations". Colleges must meet a wide range of needs and reach out to all sections of the community from a basis of sound management and financial viability.
Robert Beattie said the council together with colleges had to distinguish between need and demand. Mr Beattie cited the finding that 850,000 adults in Scotland are at the most basic level II in literacy and, alarmingly, that 93 per cent of them are happy with that.
"We want to make them unhappy with that," he said. "Nobody must be excluded from the lifelong learning agenda."
The council's corporate plan also acknowledges that college buildings "have suffered from a lack of investment, resulting in a large backlog of maintenance and health and safety liabilities".
It has conducted a survey but declines to diulge the costs of tackling the backlog. "A snapshot assessment would give a misleading impression of the sector's investment needs so we don't think it would be a helpful figure to quote," a spokesman said.
One reason for the council's coyness is that it plans to plough in capital investment in the future, amounting to pound;21 million in the next academic year alone, on the basis of what Mr Beattie called "strategic decisions rather than the patch and mend approach of the past". Costing existing building defects would therefore be irrelevant.
One example is the planned move by Edinburgh's Telford College to a new location on the shores of the Forth, funded via a public-private partnership. The council has also made it clear that a widening access and social inclusion agenda would require a large number of small community-based campuses in the future rather than a single college complex on one site.