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Further education and the lost opportunity of the Macfarlane Report

Simmons, Robin (2009) Further education and the lost opportunity of the Macfarlane Report. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33 (2). pp. 159-169. ISSN 0309-877X

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Abstract

Further education (FE) colleges have long been regarded as the 'Cinderella service' of English education. From their origins in the technical institutes of the nineteenth century, through the years of haphazard growth in the early twentieth century, and for most of the era of local authority control from 1944 until the early 1990s, FE tended to be underfunded, marginalised and overlooked by the state. This has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. Successive waves of policy and 'reform' have been imposed upon colleges, which are now forced to compete in a highly marketised and intensely performative environment. However, there was a brief, but now largely forgotten, moment when a radically different future for FE seemed possible.

This article revisits the Macfarlane Report of 1980 and argues that, had its initial recommendations been accepted, the system of post-compulsory education in England could have been transformed. It is argued that the rejection of the proposal made in Macfarlane's first draft - that a national system of tertiary colleges be established - represents a key lost moment for FE. Had this been accepted, post-compulsory education in England could, potentially, have been re-formed according to the principles of comprehensive education; institutional collaboration rather than competition would have been encouraged; an enhanced service for both students and the wider community could have been created; and opportunities to break down, or at least reduce, the entrenched, long-standing and class-based barriers between academic education and vocational training would have been opened up.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: L Education > LA History of education
L Education > L Education (General)
Schools: School of Education and Professional Development
School of Education and Professional Development > Centre of Lifelong Learning and Social Justice
School of Education and Professional Development > Centre of Lifelong Learning and Social Justice > Policy Research Group
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Depositing User: Cherry Edmunds
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2009 12:27
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2013 12:05
URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/5400

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