Shared Outcomes Assurance Group paper: regional tertiary providers - 23 August 2022

Paper from the meeting of the group on 23 August 2022.

Project summary

Project aim: Through evidence, analysis and collaborative action the pathfinders will explore what further needs to be done to make the education and skills system responsive, integrated and supportive of economic recovery and inclusive growth in each region.

Project status: green


SFC review

“We propose we lead a small number of Tertiary Provision Pathfinders, where we can build on the strong foundations of existing partnerships, to secure more coherent provision that meets the needs of learners, employers, regional and national needs. 
The pathfinders will explore what further needs to be done in very practical ways to make the education and skills system responsive, integrated and to support economic recovery and inclusive growth in each region”

A more strategic approach to provision planning…

Purpose and scope

  • to assess how colleges and universities in two regional areas plan for coherent provision, and the factors that currently drive provision planning
  • to analyse how actual provision is aligned to the needs of prospective students and employers
  • to improve learning pathways for people furthest from the labour market and the learner journey from the senior phase of school
  • to develop expectations and guidance for colleges and universities on better provision planning for skills alignment; to consider how SFC’s funding and accountability mechanisms can best support this


To make a specific contribution to skills planning within regions with the purpose of generating learning for wider application

Building on national policy direction…

  • Working Collaboratively for a Better Scotland (2018)
  • Scotland’s Future Skills Action Plan (2019)
  • National Strategy for Economic Transformation (2022)

Listening to the voice of the sector…

  • The Muscatelli Report
  • The Cumberford-Little Report
  • The Scottish College of the Future

Connecting to Regional Priorities…

  • Regional skills commitments
  • Regional Economic Strategies 
  • City Region and Growth Deals 

Four linked workstreams….

  • data and analysis
  • regional priorities
  • process analysis
  • reflections and recommendations

Data and analysis (WP1)


  • an understanding of current skills provision, unmet demand, available data and other evidence


  • a mapping of the current educational provision across institutions in two regional areas 
  • a report on available data and evidence, and any apparent gaps 
  • an analysis of any apparent unmet demand across the regional areas 
  • a report on regional pathways between school, colleges, universities and apprenticeships  
  • demographic analysis for each region


  • consultancy support:
    • interviews and focus groups complete - 19 August
    • first draft report 2 September
    • SFC data shared with consultants
  • SDS support:
    • secondary data to be complete by 5 September

Regional priorities (WP2)


  • developing approaches to provision planning at a regional level, identifying early areas for action, advancing collaboration, deepening strategic connectedness to employers, piloting new ways of working


  • pathfinder regions identify a small number (1-4) regional skills priorities to progress
  • with Green Skills/Just Transition likely to be a shared priority, there is possible overlap and synergy with the CESAP Pathfinder, and there is collaborative working with local partners and SDS on development


  • evaluation of regional pilots focusing on existing strengths and new ways of working 


  • 1:1 engagement with partner organisations
  • two Regional Delivery Boards established
  • regional priority areas agreed and scoped
  • provision planning underway

Process analysis (WP3)


Work package 3 will aim to answer the following:

  • how is provision planning and curriculum design done
  • how is provision planning influenced by employers and other partners   
  • how is provision planning influenced and supported by SFC?  How can this be enhanced


  • scoping and methodology developed
  • technical input and expertise from sector leads

Reflections and recommendations (WP4)


  • producing recommendations and lessons learned from each work package, sharing new thinking for learners, employers, and the wider system in skills planning and alignment


  • drawing on lessons learned from each of the work packages 
  • using the insight of the academics, practitioners and local partners involved in this work to best effect

Measuring progress

  • data and analysis: March to October 
  • regional priorities: March to December
  • process analysis: March to October
  • reflections and recommendations: July to March


Understanding demand

Positive joint working with SDS. In collaboration with SFC colleagues, SDS data and analysis will provide a picture of demand for education and skills provision in each regional area.  This will include: 

  • an analysis of current and emerging skills demands in each region 
  • a report on employer perspectives of current and emerging skills demands 
  • the forecasting of future skills demands in each region. This will consider growth industries both regionally and nationally, and national policy drivers that will influence demand

SFC meets weekly with SDS colleagues to collaborate on areas of shared focus for the Regional Pathfinder project, and this work is scheduled to conclude in September. 

What does education and skills provision look like in the two regional areas, and how has this changed over recent years?

  • AAB and SFC have identified secondary data requirements from SFC and SDS to aid in the mapping of educational provision in each regional area and how this has changed since 2011. This data gathering and analysis work is now underway
  • AAB and SFC have iterated the approach to interviews, focus groups and case studies, and interviews are now complete
  • focus groups and/or touchpoints with learners and employers will take place in August
  • completion of totality of Work package 1 on schedule to conclude by October

Regional priorities (WP2)

North east proposals in development

  • strategic partnership – to explore joint planning and provision of programmes and development of pathways and some shared services (North East Scotland College and Robert Gordon University)
  • care partnership to promote health and social care pathways, including potential for work based provision in health (North East Scotland College, Robert Gordon University and University of Aberdeen)
  • energy transition – to consider potential for collaboration building on NESA around key skill provision – informed by industry demand (North East Scotland College, Robert Gordon University and University of Aberdeen)
  • development of enhanced Senior Phase pathways and common approaches to collaborative opportunities (North East Scotland College, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council)

South of Scotland proposals in development

  • joint regional portfolio planning for shared degree pathways (to be launched in 2022/23) (Dumfries and Galloway College and University of the West of Scotland)
  • south of Scotland Digital Pathfinder, building on established Learning Skills Network and Digital Skills Hub to improve digital opportunities for post-16 learners (Dumfries and Galloway College and Borders College)
  • joint prospectus for land-based sector (Scotland’s Rural College and Borders College)


  • commitment to engage with learners impacted by summer break
  • delivery of new provision will take place beyond the lifetime of the pathfinder project – work underway to consider approach to evaluation to capture ongoing learning

Next steps 

  • learner engagement strategy to be implemented with partners
  • conclusion of workpackage 1 in October
  • joint meeting of the two regional delivery boards in September
  • ongoing engagement with technical curriculum design and provision planning experts to support work package 3
  • continued discussion with College Development Network ERG team on potential support in pathfinder areas

Questions for SOAG to Consider

  • overall approach and progress so far
  • who else we should be engaging with –in government and beyond?
  • what needs to happen to ensure that we  can collectively make best use of the findings – regionally and nationally  - to inform the wider approach to skills planning? 
SOAG paper: regional tertiary providers - 23 August 2022
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