What do we want and need from our colleges from 2030 onwards, and how do we get there? These were the simple, yet fundamental questions the Commission set out to answer when it began work in Spring 2019.
As the Commission reaches its concluding stages, its UK-wide final report set out a rallying cry for radical and decisive action - enabling colleges to be part of a more joined-up, all-age education and skills system, which enables individuals ultimately to have greater agency and opportunities across their lifetimes.
Now, the Commission has published the first of its nations-specific final reports. This report is for England.
Currently, the post-16 education and skills system in England is not set up to empower colleges to offer the full range of opportunities needed for people to reach their potential. And nor does the system enable colleges to best meet the needs of businesses facing enormous change and challenges, including recovery from the ongoing crisis as well as the urgent need to move to a green economy.
The Commission’s new report, The English College of the Future, sets out recommendations that, if implemented through the UK Government’s upcoming FE White paper, would develop a coherent and connected education and skills system, with employers playing a central role. This would ultimately ensure that everyone is able to access education and training when and how they need it.
Whilst there is the important prospect of a much-needed reform agenda to renew and reaffirm the role of colleges in England, we are also clear that this is not just a report for government. This report calls on everyone across the system to take collective ownership of the change agenda, living out the principles that this report describes.
This report makes a number of central recommendations, which reaffirm and build on themes set out in the The College of the Future UK-Wide Final Report.
The reforms must be taken in their totality, representing a comprehensive package of systems reform. However, particularly central recommendations for the anticipated FE White Paper to create the post-16 education and skills system needed for the future include:
1. Introduce a legal duty on colleges to establish networks across appropriate economic geographies – which must be matched by a duty on all other post-16 education providers in the economic geography – to collaborate in the interests of students, communities and the economy.
2. Forming a cross-departmental ministerial taskforce/ body to oversee a new Government 10-year strategy for education and skills to drive the industrial strategy and other priorities, with DFE, BEIS, DWP, MHCLG and others represented, together with employers and other key stakeholders.
3. Funding colleges to deliver specialised and targeted business support, creating employer “hubs” in key sectors/ occupational pathways, especially in digital, construction, engineering, and health and social care. This includes a new, refreshed genuine strategic partnership between colleges and SMEs to get people back into secure employment quickly and drive innovation.
4. Creating a statutory right to lifelong learning by making lifelong learning accessible and financially viable to all through offering equal loans and grants across further education and higher education so that everyone can access the training they need, no matter where they come from, their circumstance or their background.
5. Investing in colleges through three-year grant settlements to give colleges the confidence and funding to deliver strategically for people, productivity and place in the economic rebuild.
6. Streamlining regulation, accountability and the funding system to reduce bureaucracy and to ensure that the system focuses on the mission, purpose and outcomes of colleges more than the micro-operations.
NEXT STEPS AND HOW TO GET INVOLVED
While there are common challenges and opportunities for colleges
across the four nations, the Commission’s recommendations for each
nation are distinct and particular to the respective policy and
political contexts. Reports have now been published for England, Scotland and Wales, and Northern Ireland.
College of the Future - Publications
- College of the Future - Research Progress Report
- The College of the Future UK-Wide Final Report
- The English College of the Future
- The Scottish College of the Future
- Coleg y Dyfodol ar gyfer Cymru
- The College of the Future for Wales
- The Northern Ireland College of the Future
- Workforce of the future
- Going further and higher