Fourth ‘national college’ gets digital skills focus

England’s fourth national college will focus on digital skills and coding, it has been revealed.

The National College for Digital Skills, which will begin working with part-time learners next year and open a new campus in London in 2016, will focus on higher apprenticeships and foundation degrees for learners over 18, with some provision for 16 to 18-year-olds, all at level three or above.

But the college, which was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron today, will be the first in the government’s national college initiative to incorporate as a completely new organisation without the backing of an existing FE provider.

New colleges for the nuclear, fracking and rail industries announced earlier this year all involve the expansion of one or more existing institutions.

But Mark Smith, one of the project’s founders, told FE Week it was a model which best suited the aims of the college.

He said: “We are very much looking to identify the right FE providers to work with in the long-term, but we felt very strongly that to create the ethos and culture we wanted, establishing a new institution would give us a real blank canvas.

“Being autonomous is also important in our bid to become successful.”

The college will be founded by the Aldridge Foundation and has named Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deloitte, Gamesys, Henderson Global Investors, IBM, King, Oracle Academy, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the Tech Partnership among its supporters.

The project launched last year with an initial £100,000 donation from Gamesys which allowed Mr Smith and co-founder Tom Fogden to work full-time.

Mr Smith said he expected the capital costs, which have not yet been worked out, to come from industry with match funding from government, with revenue funding eventually coming from both the Skills Funding Agency and Education Funding Agency.