The first institutes of technology could be set up in time for the next academic year, according to the Collab Group of colleges.
The group, which is made up of 35 large colleges across the UK, this morning published its views on the IoTs, covering both the rationale behind them and how they could be implemented. This comes after the government earlier this month announced £170 million for new, “prestigious” IoTs, which will deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Speaking exclusively to TES, Collab Group chief executive Ian Pretty said the largest college groups in the UK were ideally placed to have institutes housed within them: “Why would you create some brand new institution when you could leverage what we have already got?”
This chimed with the government’s industrial strategy, added Mr Pretty. Collab had been in discussion with government officials since IoTs were first announced in 2015, he said, and it was now time to deliver on these plans.
'The capability to make this work'
“Our colleges are seeing themselves as the ones who can stand this up and move it forward. They are the ones who have the capability to make this work,” said Mr Pretty, adding that by using the existing structures in some colleges, the first IoTs could be “up and running” by the beginning of the next academic year. The dedicated STEM centres at Middlesbrough College and another being developed at City College Plymouth could be converted, he added.
The Collab Group’s document argues that the most effective way to deliver skills-based pathways was through “the development of community based institutes of technology, centred around re-thinking the general further education college model and harnessing the opportunity of the changes now underway in the sector”. A hub-and-spoke model with a large college group at its centre would need “minimal central government supervision and oversight to get it off the ground”, states the document. “In our view, IoTs need to be driven by local politicians and local employers, not by Whitehall. Government needs to give the green light and let local areas press ahead in developing their plans."
To "get the ball rolling", government could allow five or six combined authorities to move forward with designing and implementing plans within their local areas, the Collab Group suggests. "The extensive powers afforded to metropolitan regions such as Birmingham, Sheffield, Tees Valley and Manchester, or to rural areas such as Cornwall, would make them prime candidates to move forward with developing local plans and strategies for the creation of an IoT. We believe that a small group of larger colleges in these regions, collaborating with a small number of universities and two or three large employers, could pilot and set up a small number self-sustaining institutions.”