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Going further and higher

A new report calling for greater collaboration between colleges and universities sets out recommendations for governments and sector leaders to support regional priorities and deliver UK-wide economic recovery.


Over the past nine months the Civic University Network, Sheffield Hallam University and the Independent Commission on the College of the Future have been engaging with leaders and policy-makers across the sectors through events and discussions. These conversations have focused on a key question:

How can college and university relationships be further developed across the four nations of the UK to better support individuals, employers and communities?

This report is the culmination of these conversations. With case studies and analysis from across the four nations of the UK, the joint report is a call to arms for the two sectors to work together.

Download the report

The report argues that further and higher education must work more collaboratively together - both nationally and locally - if post-16 education and skills systems across the UK are to deliver on pressing societal challenges such as closing skills gaps, supporting economic recovery, and delivering on net-zero goals.

Unequal investment and a lack of clarity on the role that universities and colleges play has meant a waste of potential, leading to years of unnecessary tension. Post-16 education and skills systems can suffer from being too confusing and difficult to navigate for both students and employers, and competition between institutions exacerbates this.

We are calling on colleges, universities and governments across the four nations to commit to creating joined-up education and skills systems with a focus on shared responsibility for the sectors to deliver for people, employers and their places.


This report makes a number of recommendations, which reaffirm and build on themes set out in the UK-wide final report.

They apply to varying degrees across the four nations, with many of them inspired by existing practice and policy.


Recommendations for sector leaders to build strong place-based networks:

1 Agree the institutions who are involved in the network and embrace the local geography and specialisms that already exist.

2. Develop a cohesive education and skills offer for local people, employers and communities built around lifelong learning, ensuring inefficient duplication and competition is reduced.

3. Move beyond personal relationships and agree how the whole institution is involved in collaboration, with clear roles and shared responsibility for partnership.

Recommendations to governments across the four nations to build better education and skills systems:

  1. Set an ambitious 10-year strategy to ensure lifelong learning for all and to deliver on national ambitions.
  2. Balance investment in FE and HE to ensure the whole education and skills system is sustainably funded, so that colleges and universities can work in the interests of their local people, employers and communities.
  3. Equal maintenance support across loans and grants for HE and FE students, regardless of age, personal circumstances, or route into education.
  4. Tackle the ‘messy middle’ by defining distinct but complementary roles for colleges and universities to avoid a turf war over who delivers various types of education and training.
  5. Create a single funding and regulatory body for the entire post-16 education and skills system in each nation to deliver more aligned and complementary regulatory approaches that will ensure smoother learner journeys.


Get involved in the conversation using @CollegeComm / #GoingFurtherHigher or share your thoughts with us via email by contacting us below.

We will continue exploring this theme and what it will mean in each nation of the UK throughout this year, with roundtables and events.

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