Funding should be uncoupled from student numbers

The Commission on the College of the Future is calling for changes to the funding of colleges and the way the tertiary sector is run in Scotland
14th December 2020, 12:19am
Julia Belgutay

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Funding should be uncoupled from student numbers

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/funding-should-be-uncoupled-student-numbers
Funding For Scotland's Colleges Should Be Decoupled From Student Numbers, Says New Report

Funding for Scotland's colleges should be simplified and the Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland further integrated, a new report has recommended.

The report, entitled the Scottish College of the Future and published today by the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, says it has to be ensured that Scotland's post-16 education and skills system is genuinely there for everyone, whatever their age, ability or circumstance. This could be achieved by ensuring that institutions across the system "are funded fairly" and empowering anyone to learn by offering access to the grants and loans they need whatever route they take, with flexibility to have support across FE and HE.


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Colleges should be funded through a single-line, flexible budget, according to the commission, including all current "initiative" funding. Funding should also be uncoupled from the headcount of individual students and qualifications.

The report also calls for an increase the impact of the post-16 education and skills system by driving further integration - including aligning and integrating the roles and responsibilities of SFC and SDS relating to skills alignment to better achieve delivery of skills services, and defining the respective roles, remit and provision of colleges and universities to lessen competition.

This could either be done through a joint remit for the two organisations, or by merging the two to form a single agency.

To unlock the potential of colleges and to drive innovation by deepening links with employers, a national network of specialist "hubs" to address critical skills shortages - especially in relation to higher-level technical skills - should be set up.

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future was launched in Spring 2019 as a UK-wide, four-nations process, asking what do we want and need from colleges from 2030 onwards, and how to get there. It has already published its four-nation report, as well as the specific report for England's FE sector.

Innovation, creativity and adaptability

Audrey Cumberford, principal of Edinburgh College and member of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, said: "As the principal of Scotland's capital college, I have witnessed first-hand the innovation, creativity and adaptability of our staff and our students in responding to the impacts of Covid-19. Education and skills development has never been more important as people of all ages and businesses across the country face the loss of livelihoods. Our report sets out what we believe is the untapped potential of colleges and what needs to happen to 'unlock' that potential.

"We must ensure our colleges play a significant and essential role in the delivery of lifetime learning opportunities and exist in a symbiotic relationship with business, in particular supporting economic growth and priority sectors for Scotland."

Fellow commissioner Nora Senior, executive chair for UK regions and Ireland at Weber Shandwick, said: "We need a much deeper partnership between employers and colleges, together with universities, schools and other training providers, to achieve a much more joined-up offer from the education and skills system. This will empower strategic engagement with employers to co-develop and design programmes across innovation and skills.

"That is why we're calling for the government to invest in the development of specialist college 'employer hubs'. These would work with universities, councils and others, as a one-stop shop for employers, offering an opportunity to get support on skills needs and strategic advice in areas such as new business models and workplace innovation, as well as to try out new technologies. This is vital as we recover from the pandemic and transition to a green economy."

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: "We are pleased that the Commission on the College of the Future has published a Scotland-specific report, building on the publication of the UK-wide report.  The report highlights the vital role that colleges in Scotland play in equipping people with the training and qualifications they need to secure skilled jobs and improve their life chances. Colleges will be vital to ensuring that we recover from the pandemic - both economically and socially - and thrive as a nation.

"The recommendations for Scotland are bold and ambitious, and will inform the ongoing discussions in Scotland around the future of tertiary education, and the Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability of colleges and universities being taken forward by the Scottish Funding Council."

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