From education to employment

The College of the Future: Lessons from across Europe

Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of The Independent Commission on the College of the Future

Colleges have a big role to play in #Brexit

It’s been a long time since colleges across the UK have had such a high political profile.

This is important, right and welcome – and the task for us all is to continue to work together to capitalise on this.

The United Kingdom faces a most uncertain future, but what is certain is the role that colleges can and must play in boosting the economy, helping our communities to flourish, and supporting our people to get on.

At the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, we are already benefiting greatly from taking a ‘four nations’ approach – learning from the different reforms and practices from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Despite differences in systems, political context and culture, there are important common principles that any successful college system must seek to achieve. And, of course, developing networks across the four nations is an incredibly positive process, providing useful learnings and opportunities for sector leaders, staff and students.

Education experts from across Europe

This week, we are going one step further, bringing together education experts from across Europe to tackle the question which sits at the centre of the Independent Commission’s work: what do we need from our colleges from 2030 onwards?

Unsurprisingly, as we look at skills systems across Europe, we can again see familiar challenges. Many of these are long-standing, but many are newer too – including crucially the impact of industrial revolution 4.0 on the world of work and the need for people to re-train and re-skill far more throughout their lives, changing aspirations and expectations of people and the urgent need for us to move towards greener economies.

Of course, Brexit looms over everything in UK politics at present. Colleges have a big role to play here too. The Brexit referendum at least in part reflected a sense that too many people and too many communities feel left behind, without opportunities to get on, with insufficient agency over their lives. Colleges, sitting within the heart of communities right across the four nations of the UK can and will have real impact, with the right strategic coordination, adequate, sustainable funding, and by working collaboratively with other key partners.

A new relationship with Europe and the rest of the world

Brexit also clearly raises new questions about our relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. Colleges have an important role to play here, as we seek to retain an outward-looking focus – in welcoming students and staff from across the world, in building international partnerships, in sharing practices and learnings, and in supporting a culture and outlook which is open to the world.

At the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, we are clear that colleges must be both rooted in their communities and sitting within a system which is globally facing – and that this requires political support and coordination, too.

Colleges must be ever more central within public policy across the four nations of the UK.

Learning from the experiences of colleagues across Europe and beyond is incredibly important – as we seek to ensure that we have a forward-looking, confident vision for our sector, and of the role we can and must play for the four nations of the UK.

Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of The Independent Commission on the College of the Future

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