Going Further and Higher

Audrey Cumberford IDJun2015

Today the Civic University Network, the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and Sheffield Hallam University have published Going Further and Higher: How collaboration between colleges and universities can transform lives and places.

Audrey Cumberford, Commissioner on the UK Independent Commission, and Edinburgh College’s Principal and Chief Executive, reflects on the opportunities for the tertiary sector in the coming years.

Colleges and universities from across the United Kingdom have produced the first blueprint for a joint transformation of further and higher education provision across the four nations.

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future and the Civic University Network have come together to explore how college-university relationships can be further developed to better support students, employers and communities, and critically how to access the untapped potential which lies in Scotland’s colleges.

Partnerships and collaborations are at the heart of the draft proposals being recommended to sector leaders and policy makers.

The aim is to create a post-school education system which is robust and agile enough to meet the changing demands of the economy and which will provide the learning-for-life opportunities which will be required by the workers of tomorrow.

The Independent Commission and Civic University Network’s ‘A Better System For All’ report has produced a vision as to how the challenges of the future should be addressed through collaboration between universities, colleges, businesses and communities and by adopting lessons learned through best-practice within the sectors across the UK.

It also highlighted a massive underfunding of the colleges sector when compared to universities over a long number of years and highlights that long-term budgetary commitments were vital to providing long-term overhauls of the learning and skills necessary in the coming decade.

Among the key proposals is the creation of place-based networks across the four nations to allow colleges and universities to develop strategies across appropriate economic geographies and places that have a shared history and identity. The aim would be for institutions, in consultation with employers and other key stakeholders, like schools and local authorities, to identify local and regional needs and priorities in line with national strategies. This would allow them to avoid inefficient competition and play a much more proactive and strategic role in stimulating demand of people and employers.

There is no doubt that, while colleges and universities across the United Kingdom have provided world-class teaching for many years, radical reform is needed to meet the incredibly rapid pace of change being driven by emerging technologies and other transformational economic factors such as aging populations and the climate emergency.

This report seeks to provide a joined-up approach as to how we meet those evolving needs and to remove the competitive barriers which have often been in place between universities and colleges and to replace them with collaborative, cohesive and integrated relationships which maximise the opportunities needed to provide the Further and Higher Education we will need in the coming decade.

Rather than competing for funding we need to be working together on delivering shared visions which assess and address skills gaps and changing expectations. By doing so we can work more effectively with businesses and policy makers to deliver fit-for-purpose, lifelong learning opportunities for students, employers and for the communities in which we exist.

Colleges and universities have often competed for students and funding when, in fact, they have many shared goals. This report outlines the opportunities offered by working together to achieve goals which are in the public interest such as inclusivity and building more sustainable futures focused on local communities.

There is of course an inherent challenge in the Report for further and higher education providers and policy makers. But importantly it delivers a vision of what is possible with a willingness to work together towards the shared goals which are a necessity for students, employers, communities, and the wider economy.

Adopting best practice from across all parts of the United Kingdom and replacing inefficient competition with meaningful partnerships is the only way we can realistically hope to meet the tsunami of change coming our way.


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