“Hello Again, Mr Macfarlane”: Tertiary Colleges for the Twenty-First Century

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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 post-compulsory 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, ‘democratized’ 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.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 20 Oct 2020

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