Radical, long-term education and skills reforms and investment are needed to address current and future skills gaps and transform life chances for every adult.

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future calls for colleges to be placed front and centre of those reforms across the UK’s four nations in its ground-breaking new report published today.

Today’s report, The College of the Future, calls for every adult to have the right to lifetime education and training, with colleges better supported to deliver this in every community across the UK.

The Commission has set out how colleges can be supported across the four nations of the UK to deliver the lifelong learning and business support needed for people, employers and communities to survive and thrive in the future.

The vision and recommendations are endorsed by leaders from across business, academia, unions, colleges, and the student body from all four nations.

Recent research from CBI found that nine in ten people will need new skills by 2030 to support the future economy, and that further and faster action is needed. The case for action is clear: Covid-19 consequences, leaving the EU, climate change and the fourth industrial revolution mean that everyone will need access to part-time, adult and vocational education as the economy and jobs change.

Radical change is needed in education and skills policies and systems so that colleges can encourage people to train, upskill or acquire new skills throughout their lives for the jobs of tomorrow.

The recommendations in today’s report call for the changes that are needed for colleges to deliver on lifelong learning.

Provide grants and loans that allow college students to live well whilst studying to bring down barriers many adults face to further study and training, particularly those on low incomes, in precarious employment, and for those who require retraining or upskilling opportunities (due to Covid-19 and labour market changes).

It will also offer equity for students across further and higher education by reflecting the specific additional support that particular groups will need – including childcare costs, travel costs, additional funding to support disabled students and scrapping limits when claiming benefits.

Establish a new service through college employer hubs to tackle skills gaps, giving businesses a one-stop shop for upskilling current employees, finding the skilled workers they need, as well as innovation support, for example prototyping.

Overhaul, rebalance and integrate the whole post-16 education and skills system in each nation with a 10-year strategy for how colleges will deliver what each nation’s economy and society needs and redressing funding inequity where it exists

The report is the first time that experts and leaders from across the four nations of the UK have come together in this way. It argues that there are key themes that have to be developed and reaffirmed in each of the four nations, to meet common challenges that all nations face. This report will be followed by short reports setting out how to deliver these recommendations in the specific policy contexts of each nation.

The vision that the Commission set out in July was for the college of the future to empower people throughout their lives with the skills they need to get on in life, support better productivity and innovation of businesses, and strengthen every community’s sense of place.

Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and UK National Statistician said:

“Colleges are vital yet under-utilised institutions that offer the transformational learning and support that our four nations need now, more than ever, if we are to face the long term impacts of COVID-19 and to drive a sustainable, inclusive economy.

“We must all commit to a bold ambition on skills. Lifelong learning is the only way to ensure people and businesses will survive the recession and thrive in the future. With the right support, colleges can deliver on this urgent need for every community.”


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