NI College of the Future Report

NI College of the Future Report

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future today launched its final report which focuses on Northern Ireland.

The report argues that colleges are the vehicles to regionally balance the economy, support businesses to adapt to a green and digital economy and provide better skills opportunities for those out of work. It adds that to deliver on a higher ambition for skills, recognition of their unique role and sustainable investment are needed.

As a Learning & Work Institute reported recently, on current trajectories Northern Ireland stands to lag further behind on learning and skills and could have the fourth highest proportion of low qualified people out of 16 OECD countries by 2030.

This report affirms and builds on the detailed analysis from the OECD last summer, supporting the direction of travel in Northern Ireland but calling for a fundamental shift in the role of colleges within the education and skills system and how colleges work collaboratively with schools and universities. 

In anticipation of the Executive’s Skills Strategy consultation, the commission is calling for putting colleges at the heart of economic policy.

It has five key recommendations:

  1. Establishing a central oversight body and a skills advisory board to support the effective implementation, coordination, and oversight of a higher ambition for skills.
  2. Developing a single governance structure across Northern Ireland colleges to streamline accountability and funding and maximise the impact of colleges across all aspects of the Northern Ireland economy and society.
  3. Investing sustainably in colleges to (a) redress historical inequalities between college funding and that of schools and universities, and to (b) maximise colleges’ contribution to business and community support through uncoupling funding from the headcount of individual students.
  4. Committing to a statutory right to lifelong learning to ensure that everyone can access learning when they need it and developing and implementing a digital action plan with a network of ‘community hubs’ to address digital exclusion.
  5. Defining what colleges and universities deliver to avoid unnecessary competition and duplication and to allow for the improvement of curriculum pathways, progression routes and careers advice and guidance across schools, colleges and universities.

The full report is available to download on our Reports/Resources page.

A recording of the launch event will be available on the Commission’s website –

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