An open letter to the next UK Prime Minister from colleges in Wales


This Thursday voters across the UK will go to the polls in the General Election. Here, ColegauCymru Chair, Guy Lacey, has written an open letter to the UK’s next Prime Minister, calling on them to recognise the true value of our colleges and not only for our learners, but in helping our communities to flourish and in supporting economic prosperity here in Wales.

To the next Prime Minister, 

1 July 2024 

An open letter to the next UK Prime Minister 

As college leaders, we believe that all learners have the right to world-class education delivered in a safe, diverse and inclusive setting. A strong FE sector is critical to our economic development and community resilience. While education and apprenticeships policy is devolved to Wales, the decisions made by the UK Government continue to significantly impact the landscape in which colleges are operating. 

New research published in Spring 2024 reaffirmed that FE colleges are integral to advancing societal well-being, bridging the gap in social mobility, and promoting prosperity. Our Demonstrating the Social Value of FE colleges in Wales report shows how colleges act as anchor organisations, shaping their local and regional economies. Their focus on skills development, partnerships with businesses, and apprenticeship programmes illustrates their commitment to cultivating a skilled workforce for the future. Colleges can only deliver their mission by working in partnership with government and other stakeholders – both locally and nationally.   

The EU replacement funds play a critical role in Wales. Whilst we recognise the complexities of administering a UK-wide funding scheme, it is fundamental that Welsh Government plays a central role. Placing control of the Shared Prosperity Fund with the Welsh Government would enable greater value for money and the reduction of duplication - it would mean the potential for national projects to support learners, as well as employer training. Working together we should seek to minimise bureaucracy as much as possible to maximise value for the public purse. Greater control over future funding would allow the Welsh Government to boost their support for the apprenticeship programme, full-time and part-time learners, those not in employment, education or training (NEET), and recent innovations such as Skills Academies and Bootcamps. We need far greater flexibility within future SPF projects, and critically that the FE sector is well represented in emerging discussions on future arrangements.  

Colleges play a crucial role on the international stage – working with partners at home and overseas. The UK Government’s international mobility programme – the Turing Scheme – is a highly valued part of the picture. ColegauCymru, through its pan-Wales consortium led projects, has benefitted from Turing Scheme funding with over 450 FE learners from Wales participating in overseas visits to 13 countries around the world since its launch in 2021. Turing Scheme funding has provided FE learners in Wales with opportunities to work, study or volunteer abroad, enhancing their employability skills and broadening their horizons. In addition to funding learner placements abroad, a commitment to funding FE staff to learn from best practice globally would be welcome.  

We wish you all the best for your early days in office and I hope you will join me in recognising the true value of our colleges – not only for our learners, but in helping our communities to flourish and in supporting economic prosperity here in Wales.  

Yours sincerely, 

Guy Lacey
ColegauCymru Chair

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