ANOTHER round of consultation on post-16 education began this week after the government's long-awaited white-turned-green paper on lifelong learning raised more questions than it answered.
The Learning Age green paper emerged, to considerable criticism, on Wednesday. It appeared some four months after the government said it would originally publish a white paper on lifelong learning and nine months after fledgling education secretary David Blunkett promised a white paper.
The green consultation paper asks the post-compulsory education sector to respond to more than 50 questions by July 24. Critics said that this could mean that it takes the government another year to produce any real and significant policy creating a learning society.
David Willetts, Conservative spokesman for higher and further education, said: "The government has long passed the point when consultation was legitimate. Instead this further consultation has become a substitute for decision and policy."
The green paper excuses itself from spending commitments a number of times, saying that certain funding issues are dependent on the outcome of the Treasury-driven inter-departmental Comprehensive Spending Review, which is due to be completed this summer, almost certainly before July 24.
Phil Willis, further and higher education spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "This is a paper written by the Treasury, it has its dead hand all over it. Everywhere there is a resource implication there is no solution to be found."
At the launch of the paper, lifelong learning minister Kim Howells said the key message for universities was that they needed to become more like further education colleges: "We have to beat down the fortress walls."
* David Blunkett writes 18
* The Learning Age 10
* Response to Kennedy 10
* Response to Dearing 11
* Leader 17