The further education sector is in better financial shape than it has been since incorporation, writes Tony Tysome.
Figures published this week show that colleges generated an operating surplus of Pounds 38 million in 1997-98, the first since gaining independence from local authorities in 1992.
However, more than a third of further education colleges are still in the red, with one in ten running deficits and nearly a fifth "financially weak".
But the Further Education Funding Council report shows that the number of colleges with an operating deficit has dropped to 179, the lowest figure since incorporation.
The FEFC said improvements reflected more resources, rationalisation and action taken by financially weak colleges.