Reaching out not overstretching 1

November 25, 2005

I take issue with the contention in the Foster inquiry that "the majority of colleges should stop dabbling in higher education" ("Colleges'

mixed report", November 18). No one would argue with Sir Andrew Foster's assertion that colleges should concentrate on their core purpose in developing skills, but why limit them and their students to further education-level work?

Many colleges have an enviable record of close engagement with local industry and commerce, and have developed successful vocational higher education pathways, closely tailored to employer needs.

Colleges recognise that there are sometimes problems in providing the critical mass that would ensure effective quality and the "higher education experience". But these can largely be overcome by closer association with higher education institutions and, as in our case, co-operation between neighbouring colleges.

There are many people whose lives have been transformed by studying for further education and higher education qualifications close to their work and home. I am sure that they are grateful that the college they attended did not see higher education as "mission stretch", but instead was prepared to invest staff and resources as part of a vital contribution to their community.

Mike Battye
Higher education development manager, Macclesfield College

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