Shining a light on how colleges are thinking and acting locally and globally

Blog post by Gordon Hunt, Senior Manager: Research and Enhancement at CDN

The Scottish planner and conservationist Patrick Geddes is often credited with coining the phrase “think globally, act locally” in the early years of the twentieth century, and it has been quoted in a wide range of contexts including education ever since, usually related to the effort to address climate change and sustainability. The basic premise, that small actions that are within our control build into global impact if enough people carry them out, can be applied to the principle that education builds the future one learner at a time.

Recent research work by the CDN Research and Enhancement Centre under the ‘Pathways from Poverty’ banner has focused in on the very local and personal actions that colleges are taking to ensure that their learners are supported to engage successfully with education and to maintain their family life, health and wellbeing at the same time. It’s clear that colleges have a vital role to play as organisations that are anchored in their communities and working closely with other community partners and support agencies.

This is only one aspect of college activity though, and in the connected world we now live in they are able to operate right across the ‘local to global’ continuum.

There is a growing focus in the tertiary sector in Scotland on the regional agenda, with the SFC piloting a ‘regional tertiary pathfinder’ approach to colleges and universities working with their local businesses and councils.

The CDN Economic Recovery Group project has been engaging with college leaders on the same theme of how colleges contribute to their regional economy, working with employers to deliver the skills that are needed in the workforce and supporting innovation. Colleges also provide regional pathways into higher education, either delivered in the college or by articulation into a university course.

Working together, colleges extend the impact of this regional role into the national arena, as part of the wider tertiary sector and in support of key national priorities around skills and economic transformation. Entrepreneurship and links to business development are key areas for colleges, working with partners such as Young Enterprise Scotland to develop business skills through programmes such as Bridge2Business. Colleges occupy a unique position in the education system, providing courses all the way from school to degree level with a wide variety of possible destinations for learners. In this way they link up the learner journey.

But it doesn’t stop there. As our CDN report ‘International Ambitions’ shows through a range of case studies, colleges are delivering courses and working with partners internationally and the potential to do this is continually increasing as digital technology gets better and better. The next few years will see a significant increase in the role of artificial intelligence and the wider ‘metaverse’ in educational delivery, opening up even more opportunities for our colleges to deliver their training expertise to international students and organisations.

As you’ll see from the links in this article, through our research work at CDN we’re curious about the role and impact of colleges at every level from the local to the international, and passionate about providing support to colleagues in our colleges to learn from each other and from our expert partners so that they can continue to build the educational provision that will equip Scotland’s learners for life and work. Over the next few years we’ll be building our evidence base and our college research community to help our colleges and their learners to thrive. Keep an eye on our publications via the website and email if you’d like to get involved.

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