Leader: Slow path to integration

October 31, 2003

Scotland has always been more successful than its UK neighbours when it comes to integrating further and higher education. Geography and tradition have combined to boost the numbers taking degrees and diplomas in further education colleges, to the benefit of overall participation rates. It is no surprise, therefore, that there should be moves to formalise the relationship at national level with the aim of creating a unified tertiary education system. A single funding council would help to blur institutional distinctions and encourage yet more collaboration.

The size of the English systems may preclude a merger of national bureaucracies, but the time it has taken to approve Thames Valley University's amalgamation with Reading College demonstrates the need for more flexibility. The hybrid institution is hardly a new concept but, if successful, it is sure to be a model for others. The integration sought in Scotland is no less desirable south of the border, but it will have to be a piecemeal process.

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