MARKET forces are not enough to improve the numbers of new students in higher education, according to an interim report on widening participation out this week.
It argues that further education must be able to expand or it will fail to meet competitiveness and lifetime-learning targets.
The report comes from a committee set up by the Further Education Funding Council and chaired by Helena Kennedy QC. It proposes local partnerships of everyone involved in further education to help identify under-represented groups, pool cash and promote consistency. Pilot projects funded by the FEFC could be in place from September, it says.
The committee also wants consistent support for learners from foundation to advanced courses and advises an overhaul of student finance, including an increase in access funds. Ms Kennedy said: "The case for widening participation in learning is unanswerable. It is a priority for the nation and for further education."
Consultation on the interim report will take place this spring. The full report is due out in June.
Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "The report places further education colleges and lifelong learning at the centre of the strategic debate. We welcome all the proposals."