The Independent Commission on the College of the Future calls for a strategic remit for colleges to empower people, boost productivity and strengthen sense of place.

The UK needs a new vision for colleges to drive a green economic recovery and better living standards, according to the Independent Commission on the College of the Future.

In a report published at the end of last month, entitled ‘People, productivity and place: a new vision for colleges’, the commission brings together a collection of essays from FE sector leaders on the transformative role that colleges must play in economic recovery, future prosperity and sustainability. 


The essays include contributions from Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton, former head of the UK government civil service Lord Bob Kerslake and former chief executive of Ucas Mary Curnock Cook. 

Together with nine other contributors, they call for a new, bold and ambitious strategic remit for colleges to empower people with opportunities for lifelong learning and support, to boost productivity and to strengthen every community’s sense of place. 


Sir Ian Diamond, the UK's national statistician and chair of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, said, “The vision we have set out has the potential to transform lives and communities, increase productivity and innovation and crucially give the country the best possible chance of thriving in 10 years’ time.

“In each of the four nations, we have an opportunity to unlock and invest in the potential of colleges. This builds on a vast array of work across the four nations.

“We have a real opportunity to build on where it works and to learn together. This is vital if we are to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and to face longer-term challenges that will remain long after the pandemic has passed.

“Now we have set out our vision for colleges, we are consulting with the education and skills sector, employers and beyond to build a roadmap for how to achieve it, with recommendations for each of the four nations.” 

The commission suggests the college of the future will be central to driving a fairer, more sustainable and more prosperous society.


The commissioners say that:

  • For people, colleges will be a touchpoint for everyone throughout their lives as the world changes

  • For productivity, colleges will provide strategic advice and support for employers to drive business change, innovation and future workforce planning

  • For place, colleges will have the resources and funding to play an even greater role in fostering healthy and connected communities

Principal and Chief Executive of Walsall College, Jatinder Sharma told Prosper, “The power of colleges to bring about economic and societal change is at the heart of this report.  We’re pleased to play a part in helping to shape this education reform.


By doing so, colleges can continue being recognised for the proactive, pioneering and innovative work we all do to support people with further skills training, boost productivity in key and emerging sectors, as well as enrich every part of the UK.”


Chief executive of the Association of Colleges David Hughes said, “The vision set out by the commission is a clarion call for all of us to work together to ensure that every person, place and employer has the college they need. It's a huge step towards giving colleges the long-term position and funding they need to deliver their best.

“As the country emerges from the pandemic and people consider their futures, the vision sets out the vital role colleges will play in our labour market, economy and communities. Every young person and adult should be able to look to their college for the education, skills and support to find work they need.


Working with businesses, universities and others will be key components as discussion turns towards the White Paper in the autumn.”

Apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan said, “We very much welcome the commission’s new vision for colleges. I have seen first-hand the transformative effects that high-quality further education and training can have, and this would not be possible without our brilliant colleges.

“It is now, more than ever, that we need to invest in long-term change and fundamental reform of further education if we want our economy to grow and productivity to improve across the country.

“That’s why, in the autumn, we will set out a plan to build a high-quality further education system that will unlock potential and level up skills and opportunities across the county.”

Regional round table events are now taking place across the country to discuss the future role of Colleges, Walsall College will host a Midlands event on 3rd September.


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