PAC: colleges must improve quality and appeal

February 15, 2002

Further education needs to become better at attracting students and improving their success rates, the government's Public Accounts Committee has said, writes Tony Tysome.

Just over half of 3.8 million students in further education succeed in gaining the qualifications they set out to obtain, and achievement rates vary enormously between colleges, says a PAC report.

The PAC inquiry found that colleges need to improve the quality of teaching and the level of support given to students. More than one in three lessons have been assessed by inspectors as just satisfactory or worse. Many students found that courses were not what they expected.

The report says that despite the key role the sector has in helping to meet national learning targets, colleges have not been set goals that would ensure targets are reached.

The committee suggests that the Learning and Skills Council encourage colleges to develop "more consistent" information on why students drop out and their performance. It supports the introduction of a tracking system that would allow the measurement of "value added" by education.

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