City Lit Blog

Association of Colleges (AoC) manifesto and five key pledges

Story added 8th Nov 2019


As we hurtle towards another General Election, all parties are clambering to flag the ways in which they’ll revitalise the domestic agenda to sustain them beyond the immediate challenges of Brexit.

Today, the Association of Colleges (AoC) released their manifesto which sets out five straightforward proposals for the incoming government. Colleges are ready and eager to co-produce the policies, deliver the education and training and take leadership roles in effecting change.

The key principles of the manifesto are:

1: Colleges at the heart of national infrastructure

2: Strengthening Institutions and Developing the Professional Workforce 

3: No person left behind 

4: A new lease of life for lifelong learning 

5: Equal access to education and training 

We welcome the AoC’s manifesto and its clear call for the Government to take the importance of Colleges and the need for lifelong learning seriously; backed up by sustainable investment.  

This, on top of the numerous public reviews and commissions exploring lifelong learning are all coming to very similar conclusions – refreshed political importance; sustained investment; and skill development that works for all, not the few.  Adult education is the clear answer.

In particular, the Augar Review‘s (released May 2019) vision of a robust “national adult education network” bolstered with capital and revenue support seemed to be received positively by Boris Johnson’s Government – even though it has still not been responded to fully. The Augar Review identified FE colleges  as the backbone of the network – and there is confidence that the infrastructure is already there to build an adult education service fit for the 21st century- exploiting the strengths of adult, further and higher education and their distinctive but complementary approaches.

There is a strong cross-party consensus that the pace of technological, demographic, labour market and social changes require a re-think on how we invest in our people. That view is shared widely now, with employers, trades unions, think tanks and third sector organisations all wanting a more agile and comprehensive post-16 system which prepares people for life and work and also encourages and enables them to carry on learning, training and re-inventing themselves throughout their lives. 

The culture of learning for life becoming the norm in all communities, for all people is a key goal for City Lit – something the Mayor of London was clear to include in his recent ‘Call to Action for Skills in London’. Achieving this will require a number of ambitious and urgent policies, implemented over the long term and supported by a boost in government as well as employer investment. Every community needs and deserves a thriving college as a central part of the national infrastructure.

The next Government will need to face the challenge of skills shortages, as people are living for longer and want to continue to be economically, physically and mentally active.  We must shift the balance away from an overarching system that favours university degrees as the predominant end goal (especially for the young and the better off) towards one that encompasses diverse ages, backgrounds and objectives 

We would encourage the new Government to revisit much of the recent public investigation of this sector and ensure we have an education system where all-age learning is the norm and every individual has the opportunity to take part whenever they choose and in a setting that best suits their needs.

Alongside the AoC, all Colleges across the country, and other Institutes of Adult Learning,  City Lit stands ready to meet the challenges of this exciting next period for the United Kingdom; with a clear strategy for how we achieve a world-class whole-life education system which truly supports the notion of learning for life. 

AOC Manifesto 2019