Messages from the Dearing debate

October 3, 1997

I have been an advocate for the provision of a continuous curriculum post-16 for some time. If we are genuinely committed to improving access we must avoid unnecessary barriers to progression. As someone who has worked at a senior level in both further and higher education, I know that universities and colleges in the main do an excellent job and that each type of institution has its own distinctive character which needs to be preserved.

For some time now a number of further education colleges have worked closely with universities to deliver higher education locally and hence increase participation rates. My own institution is an associate college of a university and in this way we now deliver a wide range of higher education. All this delivery is quality assured and is serving a genuine need. We have an excellent partnership.

It is for this reason that I read with some concern one of the recommendations in the Dearing report that perhaps there should be no further growth in degree-level work in further education colleges. This appears to be a return to solid demarcation lines and I believe should be resisted strongly. With all the emphasis on lifetime learning and widening participation this must be the wrong move to take at this time.

It is true that Dearing calls for more subdegree work in colleges. While I have to say that I personally find some difficulty with the word "subdegree" and its possible connotations I do find encouragement in this proposal. However, just as I do not believe degree work should be seen exclusively in the university sector, I believe the same is true for higher national diplomas and higher national certificates. Indeed, in many cases now, the degree course and HND are built together in a modular structure so that successful HND graduates can progress to the final year of a degree.

I will watch with interest the debate on Dearing and of course participate myself. We all know that education and training is an essential ingredient for a prosperous country. All this must be underpinned by a vibrant and healthy further and higher education sector.

John Moverley Principal, Myerscough College Preston, Lancashire

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