Rethinking Higher Learning on the Isle of Man

University College Isle of Man (UCM) hosted a forum for a discussion on the future of higher learning on the Island, which was attended by key employers and stakeholders.

Over sixty representatives from a variety of organisations participated in the cross-sector discussion entitled, ‘Rethinking Higher Learning’; these included UCM, Keyll Darree, the Department of Education Sports and Culture (DESC), secondary schools and employers. It provided an opportunity for participants to share their ideas and views on how they envision the future direction of higher education.

Professor Ronald Barr, CEO of the Department said, “I have long considered that we would benefit from having a single higher education partner for the Island and that we can be stronger by consolidating the work we do.” He went on to say that there was a potential to significantly grow the numbers of learners accessing higher education on the Island as well as being more cost efficient.


Jo Pretty, Principal of UCM said during the event, “We know that the world is undergoing a technological revolution that is transforming the way we live, work and relate to one another.  Technological advances, will result in a global shift towards a more knowledge based economy and jobs will be very different.  Changes in consumer habits, and a potential growth in a more short term and freelance workforce will also shape the way we provide and deliver our education and training. We need to transition towards that future by keeping pace with industry requirements and 21st Century learners’ expectations.”

The event aptly follows on from several key surveys such as the Skills Shortages Survey 2017, by Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, and Business Confidence Survey 2017, by the Cabinet Office. These surveys reveal that Island employers are concerned about the current shortages of skills on the Island, thus making a case for the Isle of Man to rethink its approach to higher learning, to meet the current and future demands of the local economy.

“The Island is well positioned to deliver a rage of contemporary higher learning opportunities to both residents and visiting students. A small nation state has many advantages over larger jurisdictions in terms of adopting flexible models of delivery, collaboration with enterprising employers and international reach. We should not underestimate the opportunity that we have in order to grow our higher learning and the many benefits that can be realised,” said Gail Corrin, Higher Education Manager, UCM.

Participants discussed three main topics: learning modes, learning topics/subjects and sustainable/equitable funding models. Within these discussions, they considered various themes such as current and future learning prospects on the Island, opportunities for partnership, co-investment, research, innovation and enterprise, as well as the application of lifelong learning.

“This discussion today is not just about ‘learning’ – it is also about creating a community and business culture that allows people to learn, practice and also more importantly, make mistakes. It is crucial that people are encouraged to experiment and feel confident that they would not be reprimanded or judged for their errors, as this will help create a high performing culture that is bold and innovative,” commented Carol Glover of Isle of Man Enterprises, about the benefit of having a collaborative, supportive and non-judgemental  approach to learning on the Island.

Following the event, UCM will consolidate the outcomes of the discussions, which will be used to inform higher education thinking within DESC, as well as the tendering process that will be put out by Treasury, which seeks a single Higher Education awarding partner for the Island for the next few years.