Scottish higher and further education, vocational training and community education must all be brought together under a single national strategy rather than being treated as separate sectors.
This is a key recommendation in the lifelong learning report published this week by the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee.
The report recommends merging the Scottish Higher and Further Education Funding Councils in five years. Its goal is for all Scots to have a standard entitlement to learning, equivalent to six years of post-compulsory education, the minimum time necessary for an honours degree.
The committee wants people who left school with no qualifications or poor grades to be entitled to access courses, with part-time learners entitled to the same fee support, pro rata, as full-time students. This should be piloted among disadvantaged groups such as single parents and low-wage earners, the report says.
The committee wants the premium for students from non-traditional backgrounds to rise from the current 5 per cent to 25 per cent, and for a protected percentage of the lifelong learning budget to go to informal, community and voluntary learning.
The 80 recommendations, which won unanimous support in the cross-party committee, will be debated in parliament at the end of November.
The recommendations were welcomed by leaders in the tertiary sector. Tom Kelly, chief officer of the Association of Scottish Colleges, said:
"Entitlement, credit and progression must be available for all, not just the few."
David Caldwell, director of Universities Scotland, said it offered "a good starting point" for developing a national strategy.