THE Welsh Office this week published its own consultation paper on lifelong learning, which includes a Pounds 1 million partnership between further and higher education.
The broad thrust of the new green paper, Learning Is For Everyone, is similar to that of The Learning Age, published for England last month by the Department for Education and Employment.
But it warns that Wales faces profound challenges, lagging behind other parts of the United Kingdom in developing basic and intermediate skills. Only a third of the working age population has two or more A levels or their equivalent, and more than 20 per cent of the working age population have low numeracy skills.
Wales is to have a single credit-related qualifications framework which spans all post-16 learning, and the Welsh further and higher education funding councils will introduce a partnership fund in the next financial year that aims to develop "community universities". The paper says this will help promote wider participation.
Peter Hain, Welsh minister for lifelong learning, said: "An extra 25,000 people are expected to benefit from easier access to further and higher education. Universities and colleges will be more flexible and accessible to groups and individuals shut out until now."
A bilingual distance-learning Digital College will be launched this year, initiated by the broadcasters S4C and BBC Wales, which aims to reach learners at home and in the community through television, complementing the work of the University for Industry.