Government consultations on the future of lifelong learning were given a cautious welcome from organisations in education and industry this week.
The Green Paper and Government responses to the Kennedy and Dearing reports on colleges and universities signalled a new phase of expansion, according to the Association of Colleges. But acting chief executive Sue Dutton said: "The Government will have to think seriously and creatively about the comprehensive spending review and where FE fits in."
The Green Paper triggered an unprecedented joint statement from the AOC and lecturers' union NATFHE. They called it "a unique opportunity to turn years of agreement on what needs to be done into a real experience for thousands who would never have imagined the chance of an education would be theirs".
Paul Mackney, NATFHE general secretary, said: "The Green Paper is the first bite at lifelong learning. What we now need is a megabyte to power a genuine learning society."
The employers through the Confederation for British Industry were concerned that the extra cash demands for work-related courses would drive companies away from colleges. However, the overall thrust of the three reports "chimed" with their thinking, said CBI education director Tony Webb.