Collaboration is Imperative

Willie Mackie of the Economic Recovery Group on its latest phase of work supporting the critical role of colleges as enablers of cross-tertiary collaboration.

Faced with the challenges of the current unprecedented financial environment, there is an urgency like never before to leverage the opportunities that greater collaboration across multiple stakeholders can deliver to protect, nurture and develop the skills system which is so critical to our economic recovery following the shocks of the Covid crisis and the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Cooperation across Scotland’s tertiary sector is therefore no longer an option for our colleges – it is a pressing necessity at both strategic and operational levels if our talented and committed students are to achieve their full potential.

This is the impetus for the next phase of the Economic Recovery Group’s (ERG) work following the completion of our CDN sponsored programme on colleges as drivers of regional economic development. We have been commissioned by CDN to take this work to the next level and work alongside college leaders as they harness the positive momentum to pivot and position their organisations to adapt to the seismic changes in their operating environment and deliver the best possible service to their students wherever they are on their learner journey.

We have found that there is a growing realisation amongst colleges of the imperative of working more closely together across regional and administrative boundaries at a strategic level in those parts of the country where the functioning economic geography extends across two or more college region areas. Collaboration between college regions and be-tween them and universities has the potential to bring real additionality to the delivery of the inter-regional skills agenda of Regional Economic Strategies (RES) and Growth Deals.

A key focus of this phase of ERG’s work will be to assist leaders of college regions as they develop opportunities for inter-regional and cross tertiary action-focussed collaboration with the aim of presenting to partners and stakeholders a more integrated and coordinated tertiary offer enabling the delivery of RES outcomes.

Our approach will work with the grain of the ongoing shift of Scottish and UK Government economic policy delivery and investment to functional economic geographies. We also see strong alignment of our programme with that of the SFC Pathfinders and are committed to sharing our experience and knowledge with them as our work progresses over the coming months.

The challenges our tertiary system faces are great and immediate; its future success will depend on deeper and more comprehensive collaboration, our learners deserve nothing less.

If you would like to know more about our work please contact our Programme Director, Paul Smart at

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