The Role of Colleges in Regional Economic Development

Willie Mackie, Chair of the Economic Recovery Group (ERG), shares a short update on the programme:

The operational environment for regional colleges, or groups of colleges, is the regional economy and it is therefore not only beholden upon leadership teams (supported by their Boards) to respond to its demands, e.g. of the labour market, but also to shape that context too.

As anchor institutions within their regional economies, Scotland’s colleges have a significant role to play in shaping the world into which their students will emerge once they’ve completed – and increasingly as they undertake – their courses.

Our work in the Chairs’ Economic Recovery Group – funded by CDN – is to provide our colleges with an opportunity to analyse the role they play in their regional economies through a facilitated series of self-reflective conversations, using the diagnostic tool which we have developed specifically for this programme.

The results to date have been more than encouraging. These conversations, hosted by the colleges themselves, have proven to be exciting and are already delivering more collaborative approaches in regional economies across the country, with colleagues very much at the heart of the matter.

Across our 4 original pilot regional colleges, chosen to represent different operational typologies in terms of the characteristics, shape and structure of their economies, we have seen a deepening level of engagement driven by a strong desire to ‘get onto the front foot’ to curate a Vision for their area.

Our work, by invitation of the colleges involved, has now expanded across the network to the point where we are able to offer a uniquely helpful, and insightful, ‘compare and contrast’ exercise for colleges looking to strengthen their role in their regional economies.

This is being achieved through the development of Regional Economic Strategies and the lens of the Regional Economic Partnerships which will ultimately take responsibility for their oversight, and both of which create the policy coherence that is required within a vision for each regional economy.

Whether it is the identification of green jobs for the future, meeting skills shortages on the journey to Net Zero, or simply mapping where up-skilling and re-skilling opportunities will be in the emerging global economy, Scotland’s colleges are playing their part.

Given the challenging operational environment (SG draft budget, climate crisis and the Omicron ‘tsunami’) it is more important than ever to collaborate with all those who have an interest in driving economic recovery and renewal in your region so if you’d like to learn more about our work, please get in touch. We can share our initial findings and help you consider your own college’s role in your regional economy, before someone else does it for you!

For further information on this Programme please contact Paul Smart at

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