College leaders have found gaping holes in the government's new strategy for post-16 learning.
The Association of Colleges is particularly worried by the lack of discussion about what colleges are expected to contribute to social and economic objectives such as widening participation.
This is one of many criticisms in the AoC's initial response to the government's Success for All consultation document published last month. The AoC complains that it does not discuss the character, shape and size of the sector as a whole or the internal balance between different components of provision.
"Unless the final statement of the strategy sets out the government's goals in these areas, it will fail to provide the comprehensive statement required for the development of the sector over the next few years," the AoC warns.
While stressing its commitment to building a world-class post-16 sector, the AoC says the government's analysis does not acknowledge the underlying reasons for some of the weaknesses identified, many of which were caused by recent funding policies.
The AoC says it is disappointed by the lack of discussion about post-16 learning demand, which it says could be strengthened by improving support for learners.
It urges the government to tackle staffing issues and points out the importance of improving the sector's morale and confidence.
The AoC is unconvinced by the suggestion that specialisation will lead to better provision. "Much of the structural change that has taken place over many decades has been towards larger, multipurpose institutions and away from specialised provision. Much of that change has been driven by economic factors and the changing nature of learning."
The AoC says the suggestion that some colleges withdraw aspects of provision raises crucial questions unexplored in the paper.