Going Further and Higher: Deepening college and university collaborations

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ColegauCymru has warmly welcomed the publication of a joint report on accelerating collaboration between colleges and universities across the four nations of the UK. Here, our Chief Executive, Iestyn Davies, takes a closer look. 

This valuable report published on 7 February 2022 by the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and the Civic University Network explores the importance of relationships between further and higher education and provides pragmatic solutions to the challenges faced by post-compulsory education across the four nations.  

The report seeks to build a more collaborative and cohesive approach across tertiary education and skills with a view that our colleges and universities, as anchor institutions, share a unifying system that must be fit for the future, to support learning at all levels. 

The report makes several key recommendations to       
both the FE and HE sectors including embracing local geography and specialisms that already exist. Institutions are encouraged to develop a cohesive education and skills offer specifically for local people, employers, and the community. These should be built around lifelong learning, with a focus on reducing competition. Further recommendations include moving beyond personal relationships and engaging the whole institution, with clearly defined roles and a shared responsibility for partnership. 

This publication sets out a clear challenge and expectation to all institutions and individuals that work in further and higher education and echoes the call in our own manifesto, Further Success: Policy Recommendations for the next Welsh Government. Institutions must now step up and outline how they will respond to the opportunities set out by the Welsh Government and contained in this report. 

The report authors, drawn from both FE and HE institutions from across the four nations, also set out key actions required from respective governments. They recommend that an ambitious 10-year strategy is required to ensure lifelong learning can be delivered on a national level. They also call for a balance in funding across both FE and HE so that institutions can work together based on the respective needs of their local learners, employers and communities. The report further calls for equal maintenance support across loans and grants for HE and FE learners, regardless of age, personal circumstances, or route into education. It will be vital to address the ‘messy middle’ by defining distinct but complementary roles for colleges and universities to avoid unnecessary competition over which institution delivers various types of education and training. This links to further recommendations to create a single funding and regulatory body for the entire post-16 education and skills system in each nation to deliver more aligned and complementary regulatory approaches that will ensure smoother learner journeys. 

The new Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill will affect all post-16 providers, further education and lifelong learning. Wales benefits from being incredibly collaborative. We must now work together to recognise our different strengths and weaknesses, and to encourage good behaviour - not simply hitting targets. The new Bill will help us to ensure that learners can access the right courses for them and to navigate their learning journey to successfully reach the careers of their choice. 

ColegauCymru is currently supporting its member colleges by facilitating an ongoing discussion between the various part of the post-16 sector, with Welsh Government and the HE regulator, HEFCW. 

Further Information 

The College of the Future 
Going further and higher: How collaboration between colleges and universities can transform lives and places 
February 2022 

ColegauCymru Policy Recommendations for the next Welsh Government 
Further Success: Policy Recommendations for the Next Welsh Government in Post-16 Education and Lifelong Learning for Wales 
May 2021

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