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Student Futures Commission

The UPP Foundation Student Futures Commission is a major new independent inquiry that will look at how, in light of the disruption everyone has faced during the pandemic, universities can take action to support students from September 2021 to make the best of their remaining time at university and support those who are starting their journey in higher education this year.  

About the Commission

The UPP Foundation Student Futures Commission will seek to discover approaches that will help get students’ success back on track from September 2021. This will include considering what additional support needs to be put in place for students – academic and more widely – recognising that student days are a time of learning and living as well as a chance to build a foundation for students’ future professional careers.  

The Commission will also consider what opportunities there are to build on a fast-evolving model of higher education, and what developments there have been during the pandemic that could be made more permanent to enhance and augment the student experience post pandemic.  

It will consider what can be done from the start of the next academic year – that is, from September 2021. Although there is no formal time period that the Commission will consider, it is expected that the focus will be on events in the short term (which is defined here as actions for the 2021-2022 academic year), and into the medium term (which is defined here as actions principally acting over the next 4-5 academic years). 


While commissioners are free to consider any and all issues which they seem pertinent – and it is likely that oral and written evidence will range widely – it is the intention of the Commission to focus on a small number of substantial and meaningful recommendations that are actionable by universities individually or collectively. 


The Commission will be chaired by Mary Curnock Cook CBE, the former Chief Executive of UCAS and a well-known and experienced figure within the world of higher education. Mary will lead a team of around 12 other Commissioners who will work on a voluntary basis during the period of the Commission, which is expected to run until the end of the calendar year. Further Commissioners will be announced shortly. Commissioners will be likely to include members from higher education institutions, students and students’ unions, experts from secondary education, and representatives from the charity and voluntary sector. 

Given the importance of student voice to the Commission, in addition to student commissioner(s), the Commission will specifically convene groups of students to give oral evidence, and to feed into the thinking and recommendations of the Commission.


The Student Futures Commission is wholly independent. 

Higher education policy platform Wonkhe, acting as a partner of the Commission, will assist in convening conversations in the sector, and in raising the profile of its work in the sector and in policymaking.



Strategy and policy consultancy Public First, which works with many higher education and education organisations across the country, is acting as the Secretariat to the Commission, and will be a key partner in delivering its output throughout the Inquiry.


Given the fast-moving pace of these issues, and activities already underway by universities, the Commission will work on an iterative basis – publishing formal and informal outputs on a regular basis during its period of work. This will include the transcripts of oral evidence sessions held by the Commission, summaries of roundtables and expert discussions held, the written evidence submitted to the Commission (with the authors’ permissions), and frequent commentaries and thought pieces by Mary Curnock Cook and other Commissioners. The Commission will conclude with a final report around the end of the calendar year. 

“The UPP Foundation has always focused on how the living and learning experience of students can be improved. The Covid pandemic has, however, disrupted many of the expectations of students. Working in partnership with universities, students and the sector, the Student Futures Commission is seeking to start a national conversation about how best to build-back a sustainable, fully immersive experience, helping students get back on track for success.”

Jon Wakeford, Chair of the Trustee Board, UPP Foundation, and Corporate Affairs Director, UPP

Next steps

Look out for more information that will be published here or over on If you would like to share emerging thoughts, ideas, or good practice that you are already doing, and which you think can help the Commission, please get in touch.

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