Commission on the 'college of the future' unveiled

A commission featuring Sir Ian Diamond, Steph McGovern and Shakira Martin will set out a new vision for colleges

George Ryan

The independent commission on the college of the future will look at what is in store for the FE sector

A panel of sector experts and leaders will ponder over the future of the college sector

The “Independent Commission on the College of the Future” will be chaired by Sir Ian Diamond – who notably led a review that saw the overhaul of Welsh higher education funding and the introduction of maintenance grants to cover costs for full-time and part-time students.

The commission also features prominent names from industry, education, the media and the trade union movement, as well as experts from across the four nations of the UK. It will aim to answer the question: “What does the college of the future look like?”

The commission will meet five times throughout the year and will be supported by an expert panel. It will hold a range of roundtable and workshop events with a broad range of stakeholders across the UK throughout the year and will hold a number of public events. It will produce a final report with recommendations in spring 2020. 

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'Formidable team'

Sir Ian, chair of the Independent Commission and chair of Edinburgh College, said: “Colleges are a central part of our education systems right across the UK. But with so many critical challenges facing us, nationally and internationally – from changes in technology, aspirations, jobs and climate, to name just a few – colleges must take an ever more central place in public policy, as they are critically important for people and communities.

“The independent commission brings together a formidable team of experts and leaders to ask the fundamental questions about the role and place of colleges across all four corners of the UK.

"We will be putting forward clear recommendations, as we seek to ensure that colleges are able to play the critical role that they must – so that people have the right opportunities to get on in life, so that no community is left behind, and that governments across the UK are able to meet the challenges of the future.”

Four nations represented

Among the commissioners are BBC TV presenter Steph McGovern, NUS president Shakira Martin and TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak.

David Jones, chief executive at Coleg Cambria, said: "I'm delighted to be part of the commission. Building on so much that's being done at present, colleges can really be the solution to addressing so many of the skills and broader challenges about to be faced across the UK. The 'can do' sector needs to grasp this opportunity.”

Marie-Thérèse McGivern, principal and chief executive at Belfast Metropolitan College, said: “I am absolutely delighted to participate in the commission. For too long the UK has failed to recognise the role that colleges can play in solving fundamental problems related to social mobility and productivity. The commission sets out to objectively look at the evidence and to suggest what a college for the future could do to improve the success of individuals, communities and of the whole country in the future.”

The independent commission is supported by organisations from across the FE and skills sector, including the Association of Colleges, Colleges Scotland, Colleges Wales, the colleges in Northern Ireland, City & Guilds, the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), Jisc, NCFE, NOCN and Pearson.

The commissioners

  • Sir Ian Diamond (chair) – chair, Edinburgh College Management Board
  • Peter Cheese – chief executive, CIPD
  • Audrey Cumberford – principal and chief executive, Edinburgh College
  • Dr Stephen Farry – former minister for employment and learning, Northern Ireland
  • Matthew Fell – chief UK policy director, CBI
  • Lesley Giles – director, Work Foundation
  • Professor Ellen Hazelkorn – joint managing partner, BH Associates Education Consultants Ireland
  • Rob Humphreys – council member, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
  • David Jones – chief executive, Coleg Cambria
  • Professor Ewart Keep – director, SKOPE, Oxford University
  • Shakira Martin – president, NUS students’ union
  • Marie-Thérèse McGivern – principal and chief executive, Belfast Metropolitan College
  • Steph McGovern – BBC broadcaster and journalist
  • Amanda Melton – principal and chief executive, Nelson and Colne College
  • Paul Nowak – deputy general secretary, TUC
  • Nora Senior– chair, Weber Shandwick, and chair of Scottish government’s enterprise and skills board

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George Ryan

George Ryan

George Ryan is a further education reporter for tes

Find me on Twitter @GeorgeMRyan

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