Hello again, Mr Macfarlane: Tertiary colleges for the twenty-first century

FORUM - ISSN 0963-8253
Volume 63 Number 1 (2021)

Hello again, Mr Macfarlane: Tertiary colleges for the twenty-first century
ROBIN SIMMONS pages 68-77
DOI: 10.3898/forum.2021.63.1.08


This paper revisits the Macfarlane Report of 1980, the first draft of which recommended the dissolution of school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and other providers of postcompulsory education and training, and the establishment of a national system of tertiary colleges across England - a programme of reform which would effectively have extended the principles of comprehensive education to the post-compulsory level. Whilst the rejection of the Macfarlane committee's plan may represent an opportunity which has been lost forever, the paper presents a case for the revival of tertiary colleges across England. This, it is argued, would provide a much more coherent, 'democratised' system of provision than the current model of further education based on the neoliberal principles of markets, competition, diversity and choice. A national system of tertiary colleges would, I contend, be able to deal far more effectively - and equitably - with some of the significant social and educational challenges now facing contemporary British society, although a concomitant programme of labour market reform is, I argue, also necessary to create sustainable and meaningful employment, and stimulate demand for learning.

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To cite this article
ROBIN SIMMONS (2021) Hello again, Mr Macfarlane: Tertiary colleges for the twenty-first century, FORUM, 63(1), 68-77. https://doi.org/10.3898/forum.2021.63.1.08

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