The Independent Commission on the College of the Future has called on radical, long-term education and skills reforms and investment to address current and future skills gaps and transform the life chances of every adult. 

The Commission has launched its final UK-wide report today (Wednesday 28 October, 2020) to answer what is wanted from colleges by 2030 and beyond, and how this can be achieved. 

The consequences of COVID-19, leaving the EU, climate change and the fourth industrial revolution means that more part-time, adult and vocational education will be needed across the UK to prioritise business needs and shifts in the labour market. 

In the report, the Commission calls for every adult to have the right to lifetime education and training, with colleges better supported to help people, employers and communities across the UK survive and thrive in the future. 

The Commission has set out its recommendations for reform so colleges can better encourage people to train, upskill or acquire skills throughout their lives for the jobs of tomorrow. 

The three key points are: 

  1. Upskilling people across the UK by making it possible for everyone to learn throughout their lives, whatever route they choose to take – with a statutory right to lifelong learning and grants and loans that allow college students to live well whilst studying.
  2. Backing business, driving innovation and addressing skills gaps by establishing a unique service for employers at their local colleges for training and upskilling both future and current employees and innovation support, including ’employer hubs’.
  3. Overhaul, rebalance and integrate the whole post-16 education and skills system in each of the UK’s four nations with a 10-year strategy for how colleges will deliver what each nation’s economy and society needs, redressing funding inequity where it exists. 

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. 

Launched in Spring 2019, the Commission brings together prominent names and experts from industry, education, the media, trade unions, student voice and academia. It has held roundtable and workshop events with a broad range of individuals and organisations across the UK. 

Earlier this year, the Commission held a virtual round table at Sunderland College attended by leading figures from across the North East, where attendees heard how Education Partnership North East’s group of colleges, which includes Hartlepool Sixth Form, Northumberland College and Sunderland College, are engaged in collaboration and long-term partnership building to provide high quality, learner focused qualifications to meet employers’ needs and fill industry skill gaps.

The event also gave attendees an opportunity to share ideas with government bodies, educational experts, sector representatives and connect with other industry sectors to reflect on the Commission’s recommendations, existing systems features, impact, and opportunities.

Education Partnership Chief Executive, Ellen Thinnesen, said: “I am delighted to read the Commission’s report, because for several years, Education Partnership North East has working hard to shape the strategic  priorities of people, productivity and place. With COVID-19 and Brexit, the Further Education sector rightly has a rapidly emerging place in public policy, and this must be embraced if the UK is to deliver much needed social and economic change.”

Education Partnership North East Chair of the Board of Governors, Rob Lawson, added: “As a Chair I fully support the Commission’s Report and it’s recognition of the central role colleges play in the economy. For the North East this means supporting the regions Covid-19 recovery plan and our ambitions for a skilled workforce fit for the future.”

The Commission’s report will be followed by reports for each of the four nations, setting out nation-specific recommendations in further detail.

To find out more about the ‘College of the Future’ visit or follow the Commission on Twitter @CollegeComm.

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19