During autumn 1995 Diana Laurillard and I presented the “Higginson Report” to the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) at their meeting in a plush hotel off Oxford Street in London.

Higginson introduced a piece of FE jargon – ILT – when, in one of the late meetings of the committee, someone quipped that our business was all about “putting the L into IT”.

ILT – Information and Learning Technology – remains a widely used term in FE colleges in 2010. Higginson is the most obvious point from which to start to track the FE sector’s engagement with IT which has, during the intervening period, so dramatically changed the national and global context in which FE colleges do their work.

Diana and I were standing in for Sir Gordon Higginson who had been taken seriously ill on Tottenham Court Road minutes after walking out of the very last meeting of the FEFC Learning and Technology Committee some weeks earlier. The committee had been set up under Sir Gordon’s chairmanship to examine the potential use of technology across the relatively recently created ‘FE College sector’ of England – the sector funded through the new FEFC quango, guided with a firm hand by ‘steely-eyed’ Bill Stubbs whose support we needed to secure.

At the time Diana was already well-known for her writing and her OU work, and I was an early IT-adopter college principal, involved in founding (with Peter Shuker, Chris West and Harry Langston) what was later to become NILTA. We had both been active members of the Higginson Committee. Bill Stubbs was, and to the best of my knowledge always remained, sceptical about ILT – and on the day showed little sign of having been convinced by the committee recommendations we presented. Perhaps, as they say, ‘that explains a lot’ about what happened later.

According to a recent doctoral thesis from Martin Killeen of Loughborough College:

“The Higginson report can be regarded as a major milestone or turning point in identifying what would be the effect of technology on the FE sector. It logically identified issues of staff development, the integration of technology, changes in teaching and learning, and the support and advice that would need to be available to colleges.”

Assessing how far our FE sector has come since Higginson is the central theme of my research – and this log aims to be a personal “observatory” of the ILT In FE that I once was (an active) part of.

John Gray


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