A time for change

Grant Ritchie, Fellow and Associate Director shares why now is a time for change and explains the great benefits of CDN’s Research and Enhancement Centre:

Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive…

Wordsworth’s words in thrall to the French revolution occurred to me scanning the current life and times of the Scottish education system and the opportunities out there for the college sector.

This is a time for change, and if colleges can react well to the changing sands and drifting thought patterns then there is no reason why we can’t prosper in the emerging new world.

Reviews are everywhere; SQA, Education Scotland, and SFC’s Tertiary review are a pretty seismic mix. Add to that the opportunities opened up by COVID recovery (fingers firmly crossed), the move to green jobs, and the need to retrain large chunks of the workforce then it is obvious that colleges are in there pitching for a pretty major slice of the action.

Despite the glaring omission of any college reps on Prof. Ken Muir’s SQA and Education Scotland’s review group, the sector still needs to be putting pressure on those within that select few. We know the business and we ought to put our own thinktank together to come up with some meaty ideas for reform.

Similarly, with the SFC review, it is a clever piece of work that opens up the chance to rethink many things: funding, outcomes and impacts, institutional organisation. It is written in such a way that there is no clear hierarchy or priority for change yet formulated, simply a basket of pretty good ideas.

At some point politicians will need to make their call on what changes might actually happen. This is the sector’s chance to help them articulate what those changes might be and to plan accordingly.

Green jobs are another area for colleges to lead, thousands of construction staff and other tradesmen across Scotland need to work to new legislation on insulation, on materials use, on alternative energy sources. The colleges need to get out there and work with employers so that we become the natural home for the upskilling required, and I haven’t even mentioned the ‘digital’ word anywhere so far.

We have got a growing ideas bank to refer to, the Cumberford/Little report and the work of the Four Nations College Alliance may not be a substantial research base at this point but it’s a start. We need to develop a body of literature, case studies and action research that help us to demonstrate the power of colleges and to help us win arguments.

The CDN Research and Enhancement Centre is new and only launched a few months ago but the Centre is a resource that can do solid, engaging work highlighting the strengths and capabilities of the sector. Reports have been completed on international work, virtual college governance and on School College Partnerships (for publication in September), new reports are on the way on the role of colleges in tackling poverty and on College Board effectiveness. We need to tell our own story and to exert our influence on decision makers through evidence-based arguments. The Centre gives us a vehicle to start to do exactly that at what is a critical time.

Grant Ritchie
Fellow and Associate Director, CDN

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