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Former Universities Minister Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP has launched a Lifelong Education Commission under his Chairmanship at ResPublica, with a vision to achieve whole-system reform.

About the Lifelong Education Commission

The Commission will seek to recommend how the multiple and varied barriers to lifelong learning can be removed, what future investment is needed to support this, and what regulatory change is needed to ensure the maximum possible flexibility that will benefit learners and deliver on the promise of a whole system change for education post-18.

The commission will focus on how post-18 education and skills ought to be designed so that both Higher and Further Education institutions are valued, but also how the individual learner can be better empowered to make decisions and undertake their learning. Lessons can be learnt from abroad, as well as from mistakes made in the past, but post-Covid, the need to act differently for different outcomes will be essential.

Some of the issues we will address include the following:

  • Qualification reform: what existing qualifications, such as degree apprenticeships, need to be reformed to ensure they perform better? Flexible learning is essential for the future but will only work if the qualifications themselves are as flexible. How can this be achieved?

  • The role of Universities and other institutions in delivering Level 4/5 education as well as bitesize courses. Existing institutions can help roll out provision, what is needed to enhance this?

  • Remote and online learning; how can this be harnessed better to deliver reform? How can this lead to harnessing international opportunities?

  • Can we break down barriers between institutions to create a new form of ‘Open University’ that places power in the hands of learners to choose courses at different places of study and yet amass a credible and recognised path of study?

  • Who pays: how should lifelong learning be funded in the future? Can we move away from an unsustainable fee model to one in which universities and institutions can share in the earned value of a degree, almost as shareholders in learners’ knowledge capital?

  • How can business and industry benefit from flexible learning rather than see it as an imposition or an unfunded extra?

  • Similarly, how can we improve on the job training for the current workforce so that skills are deepened, and new innovation is swiftly learnt?

  • How can a post-18 education system best enhance provision for those affected by educational failure?

  • Whole place approaches: how can we best assess what courses are offered and where, how do we tie in the findings of the Government’s innovation audits with local industry and local places so that we can genuinely ‘level up.’

  • Language learning: research suggest an enormous cost for our national failure to educate our citizens in other languages and cultures – language learning lends itself to the post-18 agenda and our new approach will try to best facilitate the platform needed to tackle this deficit.

  • Tackling the complexities of different cohorts and groups trying to access Lifelong Learning will be key to the Commission’s remit. This may well entail different report and projects assessing how best to help: mothers retaining to work, people for whom English is a second language, recent migrants as well as recognizing and addressing the issues of class, place, and race.

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