Independent Commission Report recommends better collaboration across HE, FE in the UK

Blog | Education
Published: 10th February 2022
Area: Corporate & Commercial

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On 7 February, the Independent Commission on the College of the Future released their much anticipated further report, “Going Further and Higher”, on how collaboration between colleges and universities can transform lives and places.

Background

The Commission is looking at what the UK wants and needs from its colleges in 10 years’ time and what changes are needed to achieve this. Following extensive consultation with the sector, they released their vision for the future through their report published in 2020.

The Commission is now building on this work by exploring themes that emerged from their report, and the first of these themes is collaboration.

Collaboration rather than competition

Collaboration is something that we feel strongly about. We are fortunate enough to work with many wonderful institutions across the FE and HE sub-sectors, and already see the benefit of cross-sector working in many places.

Recent policy announcements by the government, such as the FE Skills White Paper of 2021, while welcome in themselves, have however all too often given the sense that one education sub-sector was being given favour and preference over another. In recent times, and in accordance with the government’s “levelling up” agenda, that has seemingly been in favour of FE, and to the potential detriment of HE. That in itself is an about turn on the last 15 or so years, where policy often focussed on HE, while investment in FE was neglected.

However, our strongly held view is that it doesn’t have to be like this - and that by encouraging working together, not in silos, or worse still against each other, institutions can achieve more, and create better results for their students and for all our futures. We are therefore delighted that the Commission, advised by an expert panel, including our very own Head of Education, Smita Jamdar, have taken the time to explore this issue and publish their findings.

The report’s recommendations

The report makes a number of recommendations, both for sector leaders and for the governments of our four nations.

In terms of sector leaders, the report recommends building strong place-based networks. The Commission sees this involving an agreement as to the institutions involved, embracing existing local skills and specialisms. This would then allow the development of a cohesive education and skills offer for local people, employers and communities built around lifelong learning, ensuring inefficient duplication and competition is reduced. The Commission also recommends a movement beyond personal relationships and agreement on how the whole institution is involved in collaboration, with clear roles and shared responsibility for partnership.

For the government, the Commission recommend setting an ambitious 10 year strategy to ensure lifelong learning for all and to deliver on national ambitions. Echoing the concern above, the Commission want to see a balanced 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. The Commission also makes recommendations on equal funding support for students across HE and FE, creating a single funding and regulatory body for all post-16 education and skills and defining distinct but complementary roles for colleges and universities to avoid a turf war over who delivers various types of education and training.

The full report can be accessed here.

Next steps

The Commission will continue to push the theme of collaboration through a series of events across the course of this year, with a view to encouraging both the sector and government to get on board with its recommendations, for the benefit of the whole sector and us all.

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