More protection for Scottish universities needed in UK HE legislation, MSPs warn

Written by Tom Freeman on 5 December 2016 in News

UK Higher Education and Research Bill needs amended to protect Scotland's university sector, Holyrood's Education and Skills Committee warns

Education and Skills committee - Scottish Parliament

Plans to reform the way universities are funded in England could have a negative impact on Scottish institutions, a group of MSPs have warned.

Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee has written to the House of Lords over the UK Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill, which aims to merge the governance of research funding and link teaching funding to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Representatives from the Scottish sector told the committee the existing Scottish quality assurance mechanism was a better system of review and improvement, it said.


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Representatives from Universities Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh had told the committee there were fears the HE sector in Scotland’s voice could also be diluted in the new research set-up.

University Scotland director Alastair Sim told MSPs: “It is important that each research council, in drawing its expertise from the people who are best qualified to be on the council, draws on a geographical spread of expertise, given the need to be insightful about how different things are in different parts of the United Kingdom.”

If special measures are not introduced, the system could be “unfairly stacked against Scottish institutions”, according to the report.

Committee Convener, James Dornan MSP said: “Scottish universities rightly have a worldwide reputation for excellence in both teaching and research and it is vital this reputation is not damaged by the Bill currently being considered by the House of Lords.

“We have heard evidence from across the higher education sector and we were struck by how unified these witnesses were in calling for the Bill to be amended to both reflect and indeed project our unique and valued system.

“This is why we have written to both the House of Lords and the UK Government to urge them to make the amendments necessary to reflect the Scottish perspective.”

The Committee was considering a Legislative Consent Memorandum which allows the Scottish parliament to scrutinise proposals from Westminster on devolved topics.

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