Education Secretary hits back at criticism of university reform plans
Angela Constance insists university governance bill is not about ministerial control
Scotland’s Education Secretary Angela Constance has leapt to the defence of plans to reform the way universities are governed, in the wake of fierce criticism from the sector.
Prominent academics and business representatives have accused the Scottish Government of putting the reputation of Scotland’s higher education institutions at risk with its plans to introduce greater representation of students and staff onto governing bodies.
Speaking ahead of a debate later today on the Higher Education Governance Bill, Constance said the changes would modernise the institutions by increasing transparency and openness.
“This Bill will not advance ministerial control, affect universities’ autonomy and presents no threat to their financial wellbeing. Neither will it undermine the position of rector at our ancient institutions. We have been clear on that point since the outset,” she said.
The National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) have voiced support of the measures, and Constance insisted there is still time for stakeholders to voice concerns as the bill passes through parliament.
“Scotland’s universities are autonomous bodies – and will remain so after the passing of the Bill. Modernised governance will help add to their excellent international reputation,” she said.
The Scottish Conservatives warned universities could be reclassified under Office for National Statistics guidelines as public bodies, jeopardising millions of pounds of investment.
The party’s young people spokeswoman Liz Smith accused the Scottish Government of “academic vandalism” in the face of widespread opposition.
“It keeps telling us that it has no intention of increasing ministerial powers or reclassifying universities as public sector bodies but that is exactly what the bill would do and the SNP cannot provide evidence to prove otherwise.
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