Official launch day of ACP
Over 80 individuals responded to the invitation to attend the launch of ACP on Tuesday 17 October 2006. The programme for the morning was not without its excitement. Bill Rammell, The Minister for State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, DfES had to withdraw on the previous evening having been required to attend a Cabinet Committee. His place was more than ably filled by Ruth Thompson, Director-General at the DfES.
Raising the skill levels of our current and future workforce must be an educational priority for us all,’ said Ruth Thompson. ‘Developing well-founded, strategically-focused partnerships between higher education institutions and further education colleges is an incredibly important part of ensuring our education system gives people the right skills, at the right time, in the right way.’
Ms Thompson went on to highlight the role that FE is already playing in delivering the Government’s HE targets.
‘Over 10% of all HE learners are studying at FE colleges and more than 50% of them are part-time compared to the 35% of part-time students now in HE as a whole,’ she said.
‘The FE system is particularly effective in providing HE for learners that, in the past, may not have been able to experience this level of study and the benefits it brings – for example, learners from more disadvantaged groups, background and communities.
Through flexible and local opportunities to learn, FE colleges are helping people overcome significant barriers to participation they might otherwise have faced.
‘We’re committed to ensuring that the new bulk of new growth in HE, over the next period, comes through the expansion of foundation degrees.’
This, she said, did not mean that every FE college would be expected to offer HE.
‘It’s not our intention or aim for all further education colleges to deliver HE. We’ve not set objectives for increasing the proportion of colleges that are higher education providers.
‘Indeed my view is that overall there is a good case for reducing the number of colleges involved in HE.
‘We don’t want this simply to become a box for FE colleges to tick. If HE provision detracts from your mission, then it isn’t an appropriate path to follow. We want HE to be provided where it’s consistent with the core skill-based mission of the college.’
Ms Thompson also stressed the importance of the HEFCE-funded pathfinder projects and the lifelong learning networks.
‘These networks bring together the strengths of a number of diverse providers, enabling the sharing of teaching expertise, curricula and facilities. As their interests, needs and abilities develop through learning, students are able to move between a range of work-based and academic programmes, and between institutions.’
David Young, Chairman of the HEFCE Board, in his speech said that, if ACP had not been formed by its members, it might well have been formed by HEFCE anyway.
‘It is tremendous that we have this new body and we’re looking forward to working with you and to using your expertise,’ he said. ‘One of HEFCE’s real strengths is that we do listen and we do want your views.’
Peter Williams, Chief Executive of the QAA, was equally enthusiastic.
‘ACP looks like an extremely good association to me and we look forward to working with them,’ he said. ‘ACP has the potential to be a forum for disseminating good practice and I want to encourage that. The QAA has got great confidence in the collaboration between higher and further education institutions that has been going on and we will continue to support HE in FE.’