Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of The Independent Commission on the College of the Future

A new independent commission has been launched today (28 Mar) to set out a new vision for colleges in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future will be chaired by Sir Ian Diamond – who notably led a review which 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 national and international experts from across the four nations of the UK.

The Commissioners

The Commission brings together leading figures from business and the trade unions as well as national and international experts and key stakeholders from across the four nations of the UK. Together, they will shape and inform our thinking and the wider public policy debate. 

  • Sir Ian Diamond (Chair) - Chair, Edinburgh College Management Board 
  • Peter Cheese - Chief Executive, CIPD
  • Audrey Cumberford MBE FRSE - 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 CBE FLSW - Council member, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
  • David Jones OBE DL - Chief Executive, Coleg Cambria 
  • Professor Ewart Keep - Director, SKOPE, Oxford University 
  • Shakira Martin - President, NUS
  • Marie-Thérèse McGivern - Principal and Chief Executive, Belfast Metropolitan College 
  • Steph McGovern - BBC Broadcaster
  • Amanda Melton - Principal and Chief Executive, Nelson and Colne College 
  • Paul Nowak - Deputy General Secretary, TUC
  • Nora Senior CBE - Chair, Weber Shandwick, and Chair of Scottish Government’s Enterprise and Skills Board

Purpose of the Commission

From demographic change, to technological revolution, from the changing demands of the labour market, to evolving attitudes and expectations of individuals – there are seismic shifts happening across the UK. 

If we are to meet these challenges, then colleges have a critical role to play. That is why the commission will be working with partners to answer the question – what does the college of the future look like? 

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future is supported by key 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 Commission will meet five times throughout the year and will be supported by an expert panel who will also feed into the process. The Commission 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. The Commission will be producing a final report with clear recommendations to be published in Spring 2020. 

Sir Ian Diamond, 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, that no community is left behind, and that governments across the UK are able to meet the challenges of the future.” 

Audrey Cumberford MBE, Principal and Chief Executive Edinburgh College said:

“The foundations for establishing the Commission were firmly grounded in a collective pride across our sector in the important and pivotal role that colleges play in local communities and regions across the UK. We also share an ambition to be bold and innovative, shaping a sector that is truly fit for the future - and the challenges and opportunities that we will undoubtedly face.  The Commission has an exciting opportunity to create and articulate a powerful vision for the ‘college of the future’. “ 

Dr Stephen Farry, Former Minister for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland said:

“Our colleges deliver opportunities and inclusion, and are often best placed to address the economic and social challenges faced by the nations and regions of the UK. They are central to our future.” 

Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director, CBI said:

“In a changing world of work, skills matter more than ever. That means the UK’s colleges and further education sector have a vital role to play in equipping students with the skills, knowledge, and capabilities to succeed. The CBI is pleased to be part of this Commission and looks forward to contributing to this important piece of work.”

Lesley Giles, Director, Work Foundation said: 
“Work has for some time been recognised as vital to people’s self-worth, well-being, and standing within the community, but in a modern world, any work is just not enough. It has to be good work and colleges can and must play a critical role supporting people to get in and on in work, continually adapting, and upskilling to seize the best employment opportunities and progress through their working lives. Facing transformational megatrends through globalisation and technological advances, colleges must support people and businesses to respond to future challenges too. That’s why I am so pleased to be a part of this Independent Commission, as we develop this vision for the college of the future.” 
David Jones OBE DL, Chief Executive, 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". 
Ewart Keep, Director SKOPE (University of Oxford) said:
"The Independent Commission on the College of the Future provides an incredibly valuable opportunity to share lessons across the four UK nations and to chart a long-term course for the development of vocational education".
Ellen Hazelkorn, BH Associates Education Consultants, Ireland said:
“The formation of this Commission is especially timely. There is increasing attention internationally on optimising the role of further and vocational education within the broader post-secondary education landscape – in response to changing employment opportunities and to provide greater choice for learners of all ages.”  
Rob Humphreys CBE FLSW, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) council member said:
“Access to relevant vocational skills training has never been more important to our future prosperity across the four nations of the UK. And for social and cultural – as well as economic – reasons, we need to offer training and develop a culture of learning right across the life-course. Rather than be hemmed in by existing institutional and sectoral configurations, I will be seeking with Commission colleagues to explore refreshed and innovative policies that start from future needs of learners - and learners as citizens - of all ages.”
Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Principal and Chief Executive, Belfast Metropolitan College
“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.”
Amanda Melton, Chief Executive and Principal, Nelson and Colne College said:
“It is essential to take full advantage of the transformational opportunities inherent in further education in our current turbulent economy and skills environment. Understanding and clarifying the role of colleges within a wider skills and education system will ensure appropriate investment to enable the country to compete globally at a time when the world of work is changing both socially and technically. 
“I am very pleased to be able to contribute to this important debate with leaders from a broad spectrum of skills and employment settings. I am optimistic that the outcome of the commission will be an informed rationale for investment in this transformational sector.”
Paul Nowak, TUC Deputy General Secretary said:
“Local colleges and further education deserve to be very highly valued. They play a vital role in many people’s lives, setting them on a successful career path. And they provide Britain with the skills needed for a successful economy. 
“The Commission must chart a path that ensures local colleges continue to be life-changing learning hubs for communities. That means responding to challenges like automation, and the transition to a low carbon economy, by identifying where the opportunities lie. And it means making sure that college staff get fair pay and the resources they need to provide high quality education.”

Supporter organisations

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges (AoC) said: 
“I am delighted that the Commission is being launched at such a pivotal time for colleges. We have worked hard to raise the profile of colleges and to make the case for their vital roles in helping deliver inclusive economic growth, stronger communities and a more tolerant and just society. This Commission will be able to provide the compelling vision of those roles as well as the support colleges need to flourish.”
Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director at City & Guilds Group said: 
“City & Guilds is delighted to support the commission to help shape the vision for colleges of the future and the role that they will continue to play in supporting the ambition of so many learners, whether they are making their first steps into employment or looking to progress or change direction within their current careers. The college sector has a vital role to play in supporting lifelong employability and must embrace the challenge and opportunity that ever-evolving technology, new modes of delivery, engagement and dynamic curriculum and skills needs presents. We are confident that the sector will rise to meet these challenges and feel privileged to be part of shaping the solution.”
Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland said:
“The Independent Commission on the College of the Future is launching at a critical time for colleges across the UK and will explore the best ways for our institutions to capitalise on the significant opportunities presented by the changing labour market and Industry 4.0. Although there are separate education systems across the four nations, there are many similarities in the challenges we all face and instrumental to the future success of the college sector will be our ability to develop innovative solutions. 
“Colleges are fundamental to delivering a fairer society and inclusive economic growth, as well as providing skilled workers for employers, and I’m convinced that the breadth of talent and expertise on the Commission will help the college sector achieve its ambitions for the benefit of our learners, employers, and communities.”
Iestyn Davies, Chief Executive, Colleges Wales said: 
“Despite the very different policy and political environments across the four nations of the UK, there are a number of key challenges and changes that we share – and colleges must be at the heart of our collectively meeting these challenges. That’s why it is great to see such an impressive range of experts and organisations coming together to share best practice and develop a positive vision for colleges across the four nations.”  
Dame Ruth Silver, Chair, Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) said:
“FETL is honoured to be supporting this crucial commission at a crucial time for the sector.
“In the hands of such widely experienced Commissioners, we can look forward to doing an end to the continual patching of initiative after initiative into our work and look ahead to the prospect of a fair, new wholeness of purpose and professionalism.”
Paul Feldman, Jisc CEO said: 
“Jisc enables colleges to transform into digitally efficient and confident organisations capable of upskilling the current workforce and preparing our young people for future careers. But they need support if they are to continue to meet the rising expectations of students and produce technically skilled labour the UK economy needs. 
“I am delighted to be part of the expert panel and look forward to helping the Commission provide the direction and clout colleges require to thrive in future. I believe this collaboration will help deliver Jisc’s vision to transform education and support our colleges and skills providers in preparing for the fourth industrial revolution.”
Stewart Foster, Managing Director of NCFE Awarding said:
“We’re delighted to support the Commission which is very well timed to address the changing demands of the sector across the next 10 years. We believe that this work will help to drive through change as well as position colleges to bridge future skills gaps across the four nations.”
Graham Hasting-Evans, Group Managing Director, NOCN said: 
“What we train, how we train and the medium and facilities for training are going to change radically over the next five years. AI, digital, new materials and new methods are going to have a profound impact. Hence it is essential that colleges start to develop their view on what their delivery will look out in the future; how they will manage the transition and where the funding will come from for the significant investment that will be required. NOCN is therefore delighted to be able to support this critical initiative.” 
Cindy Rampersaud, Senior Vice President BTEC and Apprenticeships at Pearson said:

"At Pearson, we know that colleges are a central part of our education systems, right across the UK. And with rapid changes in technology, careers, demography, business ecosystems and so much more besides, this Independent Commission has a key role to play in setting out a vision which ensures that the colleges of the future continues to play a key role in responding to these challenges - for young people and adults throughout their educational journey - providing academic, technical and applied general pathways  to continue to support social and economic growth for a diverse range of learners, communities and more broadly for UK PLC." 

The Commission is supported by an expert panel, which is chaired by:

  • Amanda Melton, Principal and Chief Executive, Nelson and Colne College, together with
  • Audrey Cumberford, Principal and Chief Executive, Edinburgh College;
  • Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Foundation;
  • Paul Feldman, Chief Executive, Jisc;
  • Kathleen Henehan, Research and Policy Analyst, Resolution Foundation;
  • David Jones OBE DL, Chief Executive at Coleg Cambria;
  • Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Principal and Chief Executive at Belfast Metropolitan College; and
  • Anja Meierkord, Labour Market Economist, OECD (Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs). 

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