Further and higher education are fighting it out for the non-traditional student market, according to a study published today.
The study, The FE/HE Interface: A UK Perspective, says some new universities already feel the divide between the two is artificial, while old universities are joining the fray.
Published by the Institute for Employment Studies and commissioned by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, the study says links between the sectors are likely to turn into more formal partnerships. Links ensure recruitment, give access to non-traditional students and help serve the wider community and region.
Some universities used further education colleges to overcome accommodation constraints, and all used them to keep up to date with developments in vocational education.
Old universities were increasingly working with colleges to guard against a shortfall of young, nationally recruited students by developing a local catchment base.
For colleges, university links boosted status and provided progression routes for students. More were now trying to forge links with "old" universities because of their perceived status and quality.
But the study found colleges usually remained the junior partner. Cultural differences meant further education colleges felt university procedures were sometimes too bureaucratic while universities were concerned that further education staff could not teach at the higher level.