IF THEY had been asked 12 months ago, college principals could have told ministers about the pending drop in student recruitment. The tragedy is that the franchising farce not only means a loss of students but a lost opportunity for some colleges to generate surpluses to subsidise mainstream provision in areas of social need.
However, before yet another league table is offered as a smoke-screen, we should remember that FE will continue to demonstrate its willingness and ability to take the service beyond the workshop to the high street and the community, but only if there is a:
funding regime more concerned with promoting growth than concentrating control;
funding system which offers better-than-marginal funding to encourage penetration of new areas for recruitment;
funding policy which seizes the opportunities of enterprise rather than seeing these as a threat;
funding strtegy which is consistent, enabling colleges to engage in sensible, medium-term planning, and offers the chance of honouring contracts to third-party providers;
funding procedure which provides clear, unambiguous instructions and, through early dialogue with colleges, anticipates problems before they get out of hand.
The Government agenda is the right one and we should support Blunkett for getting the money. Now what is needed is clear direction.
What is the greater priority: money in the college reserves or students in the college classrooms - in the short run we will not get both.
Ken Ruddiman was principal of the Sheffield College until December 1999. He is now director of Future Perfect - an organisation intended to support the Government's agenda through offering learning solutions.