Colleges must play a more vital role within their local communities, according to the final report of the independent Commission on Colleges in their Communities.
A principal suggestion made by the Commission called for closer collaboration between colleges and local employers within a new community curriculum.
While such partnerships can be expensive in terms of resources and management time, the Commission sees them as an important way of embedding colleges in their communities.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford, the chair of the Commission, said: “If government could give greater flexibility to the over-rigorous funding regime and relax other ‘red tape’, then colleges could and would deliver more in terms of community leadership. But they cannot do this alone. It requires more co-investment by individuals and employers; better information for the public and greater local accountability.”
The Baroness called for “a renewed and revitalised further education system with colleges at its hearts” but stressed that “while colleges may be the catalyst for change – hence our term ‘the dynamic nucleus’ – we see the way forward as essentially ‘a shared agenda'”.
The organisations that supported the Commission, The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), the Association of Colleges, and the 157 Group, expressed their satisfaction with the report.
Mark Ravenhall, director of policy and impact at NIACE, said: “The very best colleges are already at the heart of their local communities. They are supporting social cohesion, creating aspirations and providing local individuals with the chance to advance their social and personal ambitions. Most adults learn at their local colleges. A new curriculum, driven by learners and employers is crucial to build on these successes.”