Further education colleges have long played important roles in community development and citizenship in the local context, and they've been subject to a lot of shortsighted central government manipulation over the past 20 years or so. Like libraries, they represent a tradition that implies democratic engagement, and mutual-support for empowered, purposeful citizenship.
Now NIACE have published the final report of the Independent Commission on Colleges in their Communities, which was set up to investigate the role that FE colleges play locally, and the added public value that they bring to their communities as 'leaders of learning'.
Judging from the summary, the report is far from hard-hitting. It seems to be super-sensitive to the likelihood that any criticism would invite more awkwardness from government. Well, the commissioners are closer to policy than I am, so perhaps it's the right approach, but it hardly inspires fringe supporters like me. If nothing else, I'd want to see some assertive upfront demonstration of that 'added public value' that is claimed.
Previously: Shifting institutions