EUROPEAN money should be used to create a two-tier further education system in Wales, according to a report out this week. While some colleges will continue to provide courses in response to student demand, others should be given part of an expected pound;1.3 billion windfall to reduce national skills shortages, it says.
Wales will be given the cash as part of a six-year European Union programme, starting next year, to help regenerate deprived areas. West Wales and the south Wales valleys have been designated as objective one areas, which attract the highest funding.
The report, Further education, EU funding and economic development: the Irish Republic and Wales compared, attempts to draw lessons from the way Ireland has used EU aid.
Authors Kevin Morgan and Gareth Rees of Cardiff University say that there is a lack of long-term planning in FE in Wales and says that the new Assembly should draw up a strategy for investment in post-16 education and training.
Ireland has become known as the Celtic Tiger because of its high growth rates and rising employment. The report, commissioned by the Further Education Development Agency and Fforwm, the Welsh colleges' organisation, argues that investment in skills was a significant factor.