Lifelong Education Commission

Project Details

The Commission has its own dedicated website, where all research and updates can be found:


Former Universities Minister Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP has launched a new Lifelong Education Commission under his Chairmanship at ResPublica. The Commission will last 18 months and will finish in October 2022.


Independent Commissioners announcement – Read the Press Release

19th July 2021 – Evidence Session | Pathways to modular and flexible learning

14th July 2021 – Levelling Up with Education and Skills | In conversation with Minister Luke Hall

6th July 2021 – Evidence Session | How to create a more balanced, equitable, and affordable funding system

Event recording – In conversation with SoS Gavin Williamson and Minister Gillian Keegan

Event recording – Lifelong Education Commission Launch

Read Chris Skidmore’s Launch Speech

Planned Activities for 2021

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.

Independent Commissioners

Professor Liz Barnes, Vice-Chancellor, Staffordshire University (commencing January 2022)
Dr Diana Beech
, CEO, London Higher
Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University
Mr. Douglas Blackstock, Chief Executive, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
Mr Andy Forbes, Principal and Chief Executive, City of Bristol College
Dr. Joe Marshall, Chief Executive, National Centre for Universities and Business
Professor Dave Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor, London Southbank University
Mr Johnny Rich, Chief Executive, EPC
Professor Keith Ridgway, Executive Chair, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland
Mr Jonathan Simons, Director, Public First

Member Institutions

AECC University College
Association of Colleges
Birkbeck, University of London
Burton and South Derbyshire College
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough
Harper-Adams University
Leicester College
New City College
Newcastle University
Royal College of Art
Staffordshire University
The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance
University College of Estate Management
University of Bolton
University of Bristol
University of Leeds
University of Salford

If you would like to learn more on how your organisation can join the Commission, please get in touch at