Exploring a long term plan for education

Earlier this month I attended a roundtable event on long-term education organised by Universities UK (UUK) and the Foundation for Education Development (FED).

The FED are doing important work to develop a policy framework for education in the UK. As they highlight, there has never been a long-term vision and plan for education in England, and since 2019 the team have been dedicated to promoting this kind of thinking.

They advocate a ‘cradle to career’ approach to education, one which embraces life-long learning and looks at least 10 years ahead, as opposed to the five-year timelines often in use. It strikes me that this is exactly the way we need to be thinking at a national level, especially as we navigate the increasing uncertainties and inequalities of these times.

The UUK and FED event brought together Vice Chancellors from across the UK to discuss the FED’s National Education Consultation and to feed into a new policy framework for long-term education in England.

The discussion raised important points around the difficulties faced in trying to develop this kind of longer-term strategy, not least the regular changes we see in senior government ministers.

It’s clear there are changes needed in the way we approach education in this country. If we are to truly ‘level up’ communities, we need a plan for education and skills that stretches throughout a person’s life, not simply stopping when someone leaves school or university.

The group looked at options for place-based approaches, exploring what we can do on long-term education in our local areas. At Goldsmiths, our Civic University Agreement has committed us to working even more closely with local partners in Lewisham to improve people’s lives. After consultations with local residents, we’ve committed to re-energising our education offer to make sure local communities can access the learning opportunities they need.

We will be working with Lewisham College, an excellent local FE college, to help them build pathways for their students into higher education. And we hope to grow our non-accredited short course provision, looking at how we can develop shorter courses which target skills needs in the local economy, including the high-level digital skills sought by employers.

The Open Book project at Goldsmiths also continues to work with learners from non-traditional backgrounds, helping to break down some of the barriers they face in accessing higher education.

It was clear from the FED roundtable that there is a real appetite for change across the sector. Institutions realise the importance of their networks in delivering change both locally and nationally and are keen to make sure learners of all ages and backgrounds are supported. While there are clear benefits to local and national economies, there is real value in the impact this learning can have on our personal development, career satisfaction and quality of life.

Find out more about the work of the Foundation for Education Development: https://fed.education/