Scottish concerns about UK Higher Education policies

Written by Tom Freeman on 8 September 2016 in News

Concerns over proposed changes to research funding and university teaching at Westminster from Scottish sector

Education and Skills Committee - Parliament TV

Key figures in the Scottish University sector have expressed concerns about the UK Government’s reforms of higher education.

Speaking to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills committee, Scottish Funding Council director John Kemp, new Universities Scotland convener Andrea Nolan and NUS Scotland president Vonnie Sandlan said the UK Higher Education and Research Bill would impact on Scotland.

Kemp said after reforms of research funding body which would have both an England-specific role and a UK-wide role, “we would want to make sure Scottish universities weren’t disadvantaged in any way”.


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Professor Nolan said there should be a “financial firewall” between the two responsibilities of the merged body, and therefore the devolved nations should have representation on the board.

“Scotland is hugely successful at securing research council funding, far more than our share of population would determine, so we’ve lobbied hard on that.”

Sandlan said the NUS had “significant concerns” about the proposals, adding the metrics proposed for the new teaching excellence framework in England “don’t align very well with the Scottish system and the ‘students as partners’ approach the Scottish institutions have taken and developed very well”.

They also expressed surprise that the post-study visa pilot for graduates from overseas did not include any Scottish universities.

“It came as a shock to us,” said Nolan. “The broader issue of students and immigration policy is one that is impacting on our ability to recruit, and impacting hard.”

Welcoming the Scottish Government’s reassurances to EU students beginning their studies in Scotland that their fees would be paid despite the vote for Brexit, both Nolan and Sandlan pleaded for those who are now applying for courses to be granted the same promise.

Shona Struthers of Colleges Scotland said similar clarity was needed for students in FE.

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