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Our Work Across the Four Nations

AoC is the secretariat for two programmes of work across the four nations of the United Kingdom.

By bringing together college leaders, stakeholders from across education, skills and employment and officials, these programmes are important vehicles for contributing to the development of practice and policy across the UK. The purpose of the work is to lead the conversation about a ‘reimagining’ of the role of colleges over the coming decade and beyond.


Established in 2017, the Four Nations College Alliance brings together college principals/CEOs, leaders from the Association of Colleges, Colleges Scotland, College Development Network, ColegauCymru and colleges in Northern Ireland, and senior government officials from the respective governments across the UK.

The Alliance exists to:

  • Act as a forum to discuss the skills systems across the UK, and what we can learn from the different approaches that exist.
  • Identify areas where policy and practice can be co-developed through this forum.
  • Provide opportunities for stakeholders from across the UK and internationally to engage with college leaders and policy-makers from across the four nations.
  • Commission policy work/ research that supports the development of the sector – including significantly commissioning the work of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, chaired by Sir Ian Diamond.

Commissioned by the Four Nations College Alliance, the Independent Commission on the College of the Future brings together a group of experts to ask two simple but fundamental questions:

  1. What do we want and need from colleges in 10 years’ time?
  2. What changes are needed in order to achieve this?

Following extensive consultation with the sector and its stakeholders throughout 2019 and 2020, the Commission shared our vision for the college of the future – centred around the role of colleges for people, productivity and place. The Commission’s final reports for the whole of the UK (2020) and reports for each nation (2020-21) set out recommendations to deliver on this vision.

The Commissioners - chaired by Sir Ian Diamond - guide the work and are drawn from a broad range of organisations, experiences and perspectives across the UK.

The Commission’s focus has since been on exploring important themes from the work and collaborating with partners across education and skills. In 2022 the Commission has focussed on how colleges collaborate with universities.