The Happy coupling of further and higher education could give birth to a funding council merger
The Association of Scottish Colleges calculates that more than a quarter of Scotland's higher education students are studying in further education colleges. But the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council funds only the 21 higher education institutions, while the 43 further education colleges are funded directly by the Scottish Office.
Before incorporation in 1993, local authority further education colleges pressed for their own funding council, but succeeded only in winning enabling legislation to allow such a body to be set up at a later date. The topic of further education funding mechanisms then lay dormant until SHEFC, in its submission to Dearing, floated the idea of a single tertiary funding council.
SHEFC is urging Dearing to consider the benefits of an integrated approach to funding and quality assurance for all higher and further education institutions. But the Association of University Teachers Scotland argues that one body is unlikely to be able to represent the interests of both sectors.