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THE POST-16 EDUCATION (SCOTLAND) BILL:

THE POST-16 EDUCATION (SCOTLAND) BILL:

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a response to
the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee
a response to
the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee

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Published by: The Royal Society of Edinburgh on Mar 13, 2013
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03/16/2014

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Summary 
Thereisanabsenceofanoverarchingstrategy forareformedpost-16educationsystem.Theplansforcollegesaremuchmorespecificthanthoseforuniversities.Strategyfortheuniversitysector appearstobeemergingonanadhocbasisasoutcomeagreementsarenegotiatedandagreed.
TheBillprovidesScottishMinisterswithsignificant powerstodetermineprinciplesofgovernanceor managementinrelationtouniversities.Theinclusionof‘management’isnotable.Itisnotclearastohow‘management’istobedefinedandapplied.Oversightofmanagementeffectivenessisoneoftheprincipalfunctionsofeachinstitution’s governingbodyandweseenojustificationfor itsinclusioninthepresentBill.
Thefundamentalrightandneedforuniversitiestoenjoyautonomyintheirstrategiesandoperationsisnotbeingsufficientlyrecognised.Whiletheyhavetobeaccountabletofundersfortheoutcomesdue,theBillseekstochangethebalanceinwayswefeelwillbedamagingtothevitalityoftheuniversity  sector.Examplesaboundinternationallywherebtheefficiencyofuniversitiesinreactingtoopportunityandneedaredramaticallyinhibitedbecauseoftoodirectanaccountabilityto government.
Westronglysupportmeasurestoensurethataccesstohighereducationisbasedonabilityand potential,ratherthanotherpersonalorfinancialcircumstances.Wideningaccesstohighereducationisacomplexissue.WeremaintobeconvincedthatrequiringuniversitiestocomplywithtermsandconditionsimposedbyScottishMinistersforthe purposesofwideningaccesswouldaddvalue.Thereisariskthislegislativeprovisionover-simplifieswideraccessbyfailingtoacknowledgethecomplexunderlyingcausesofunder-participationmanyofwhichcannotbeaddressedbyhighereducationinstitutionsalone,butrequirecollaborationacrossthefull spectrumofScottisheducation.
Regionalisation,formostcolleges,seemstobeacceptedasthebestwayforwardtopreserve servicestolearnersinthecontextofreducedresources,andtofurtherenhanceservicesthroughacoherentapproachtoidentifyingandmeetingregionalpriorities.Weareconcernedabouttheextenttowhichthecollegesectorcanimplementthisscaleofchangeandfulfilthewide-rangingeducation,trainingandlife-longlearningrolesexpectedofitinthefaceofthe substantialfundingreductionsitisexperiencing.TheScottishGovernmentmustthereforeensurethatthecollegesectorisgivensufficientresourcestoenableittomeetlocalandnationalneeds.
Giventhattheregionalboardswillreceiveanddistributefundingfortheregionandplancollege provisionacrosstheregion,theirrelationshipwiththeSFCmustbeclear.Carewillneedtobetakentominimisethepotentialforduplicationandthecreationofanadditionalcostlylayerof administration.
WiththeconsentofScottishMinisters,theSFCmayreviewtheextenttowhichfundablefurtheeducationorfundablehighereducationisbeing providedbypost-16educationbodiesinacoherentmanner.Weareveryconcernedaboutthepotentialimplicationstheproposalsmayhaveforinstitutionalautonomy.ItisonethingfortheSFCtoreview fundablefurtherandhighereducationprovisionwithaviewtomakingrecommendations,itwouldbeentirelyanotherforScottishMinistersortheSFCtodictatethetypesofprogrammesorcoursestobe providedbypost-16educationbodiesorthatinstitutionsshouldmerge.Itistheinstitutionsthemselvesthatarebestplacedtodetermine suchmattersdependingupontheirindividualcircumstances.
 Advice Pape
January 2013
1
THE POST-16 EDUCATION (SCOTLAND) BILL:
a response tothe Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee
(13–01)
 
2
 Advice Pape
13–01
Background
1
ThroughitsEducationCommittee,theRoyalSocietyofEdinburgh(RSE),ScotlandsNationalAcademy,identifiesandpromotesprioritiesforeducationinScotland,andatallstages.TheEducationCommitteecomprisesindividualswithexpertiseandexperienceinandacrosstheschool,collegeanduniversitysectors.WewelcometheopportunityaffordedbytheScottishParliament’sEducation
andCultureCommitteetocommentontheprovisions
ofthePost-16Education(Scotland)Bill.Wewouldbepleasedtodiscussfurtheranyofthecomments
madeinourresponsewithmembersoftheCommittee.
2
Thechangesbeingproposedforpost-16educationinScotlandarethemostextensiverevampingofthestructure,fundingandgovernanceoffurtherandhighereducationinageneration.Thepaceatwhichproposalsareemergingisquickeninganditiscrucialthatarrangementswillbemadeforon-goingconsultation.TheaspirationsoftheScottishGovernmentweresetoutin
PuttingLearnersattheCentreDeliveringourAmbitionsforPost-16Education
,towhichtheRSEEducationCommitteeresponded
1
.TheproposalsinthePost-16Education(Scotland)Billseektoimplementthatagenda.Anumberofotherpublicationsandconsultationsarerelevant.Notleast,thereviewscarriedoutbyProfessorGriggsandProfessorvonProndzynskiintothegovernanceoffurtherandhighereducationinstitutions,respectively.TheRSEalsorespondedtotheseseparatereviews.
2
3
InourpreviousresponseswedrewattentiontothefollowingconcernswhichwedonotfeelhavebeensufficientlyaddressedintheBill.Theabsenceofanoverarchingstrategyforareformedpost-16educationsystem.Whileinstitutionsshouldbeaccountableforthefundingwhichtheyreceive,institutionalautonomyforstrategyandoperation,particularlyintheuniversities,isnotsufficientlyrecognised.Theabsenceofarationaleofhowthelegislativeproposalswillimprovetheexistingarrangementsforgovernanceintheuniversities.
4
InDecember2012theSFCpublisheditsstrategicplan
3
2012-2015.Thissetsoutaprogrammeofchangeandreformwithaviewtodeliveringtheambitionsforpost-16educationoftheSFCandtheScottishGovernment.Theplansforcollegesaremuchmorespecificthanthoseforuniversities.TheSFCwebsiterevealsarecentreorganisationofthestructureoftheSFCwiththeestablishmentofaGroupfor‘collegesandpost-92universitiesandaGroupfor‘researchintensivesandSSIs’.Thiswouldappeartoindicateaspecificroleforthe post-92universitieswithintheframeworkofregionalisationbutthisisnotmadeclearinthenewstrategy.Universitieshavepreparedoutcomeagreementsforthefirsttimebuttheyhavedonesowithouttherebeingaclearframework.Strategyforthesectorappearstobeemergingonan
adhoc
basisasoutcomeagreementsarenegotiatedandagreed.
COMMENTS ON THE MAIN PROVISIONSINTRODUCED BY THE BILL
Universitygovernance&management
5
Section2oftheBillprovidesScottishMinisterswithsignificantpowersandlatitudetodetermineprinciplesofgovernanceormanagement,withthe powertodeterminewhatconstitutesgoodgovernanceormanagementrestingwithScottishMinisters,ratherthantheSFC.Theinclusionof‘management’inadditiontogovernanceisalsonotable.ThereasonforitsinclusionisnotsetoutinthedocumentationaccompanyingtheBill.Itisnotclearastohow‘management’istobedefinedandapplied.Oversightofmanagementeffectivenessisoneoftheprincipalfunctionsofeachinstitution’sgoverningbodyandweseenojustificationforitsinclusioninthepresentBill.
6
Thefundamentalrightandneedforuniversitiestoenjoyautonomyintheirstrategiesandoperationsisnotbeingsufficientlyrecognised.Ofcoursetherehastobeaccountabilitytofundersfortheoutcomesdue,buttheBillseekstochangethebalanceinwayswefeelwillbedamagingtothevitalityoftheuniversitysector.UniversitiesvaryinthedegreetowhichtheyarereliantonGovernmentfunding,withsomeinstitutionsreceivingonlyaminorityoftheirfundingfromGovernmentsources.Examplesaboundinternationallywherebytheefficiencyofuniversitiesinreactingtoopportunityandneedaredramaticallyinhibitedbecauseoftoodirectanaccountabilitytogovernment.
7
Priortoanylegislativeproposalsonuniversitygovernanceeverbeingintroduced,itshouldhavebeensetoutwhether,andwhere,thereisanaccountabilityandgovernancedeficitfortheScottishuniversities.FundamentalquestionsremainastowhyareviewofHEgovernancewasinitiatedandwhatpublicconcernwasitdesignedtoaddress.Assuch,therehasbeennoexplanationofhowtheproposedchangeswillimprovetheexistingarrangementsforgovernance,andweareconcernedthattheproposalsareindangerofputtingatriskthesignificantgainswhichhavebeenmade.
1
RSEresponsetoPuttingLearnersattheCentre(December2011)http://www.rse.org.uk/cms/files/advice-papers/2011/ad11_17.pdf
2
RSEresponseontheGovernanceofHigherEducationinScotland(September2011)http://www.rse.org.uk/cms/files/advice-papers/2011/ad11_13.pdfRSEresponseontheReportoftheReviewofFurtherEducationGovernanceinScotland(February2012)http://www.rse.org.uk/cms/files/advice-papers/2012/AP12_02.pdf
3
http://www.sfc.ac.uk/about_the_council/corporate_plan/about_strategies_corporate.aspx
 
3
 Advice Pape
13–01
8
TheSFChasplayedanimportanttwo-wayroleinrelationtotheuniversities.Ontheonehand,ithasbeenthemechanismfortheannualtransmissiontotheuniversitiesofagovernmentalviewofprioritiesthatitwishestoseereflectedinuniversitywork,butinawaythatgoeswiththegrainofuniversitiescapabilityandfunction.Ontheotherhand,ithasbeentheroutethroughwhichaccountabilityfortheuseofpublicfundshasbeenmanaged,althoughmessagesfromGovernmentappeartohavetriggeredamorereactiveresponsethanthosetransmittedtoit.
9
TheCabinetSecretaryforEducationandLifelongLearninghasaskedthecommitteeoftheScottishchairsofhighereducationinstitutionstoleadagrouptodevelopanewScottishcodeofgoodhighereducationgovernance.Whileitwouldbereasonabletolegislatetoensurethatinstitutionspaydueheedtothecode,thelegislationshouldnotgobeyondthis.Thecodeshouldthereforeoperateona‘complyorexplain’basis.ThisistheapproachadoptedbytheexistingUK-widegovernancecodeofpractice
4
developedbytheCommitteeofUniversityChairs(CUC),towhichweunderstandallHEIsinScotlandvoluntarilyadhere.
Wideningaccess
10
Section3oftheBillallowsforScottishMinisterstoimposetermsandconditionstoincreaseparticipationbygroupswhicharecurrentlyunderrepresented.Westronglysupportmeasurestoensurethataccesstohighereducationisbasedonabilityandpotential,ratherthanotherpersonalorfinancialcircumstances.Howtoachievethisisnotstraightforward.Wideningaccesstohighereducationisacomplexissue.TheSFChashadalongtermprogrammeofworkingwithinstitutionsonaccessandinclusion(
LearningforAll
)andhas,withinthefirstyearofworkingwithinstitutionsonoutcomeagreements,achievedfurtherprogressonwideraccessonaconsensusbasis,throughstrategicallocationsofresources.Welookforwardtothecontinueddevelopmentofthisapproach.
11
WeremaintobeconvincedthatdirectinterventionbyScottishMinisterstorequirecompliancewouldaddvalue.Thereisariskthatitwouldleadtoamechanisticapproachratherthanthedevelopmentofcreativeresponsestoloweringbarrierstoparticipation.Thereisalsoariskthatthislegislativeprovisionover-simplifieswideraccessbyfailingtoacknowledgethecomplexunderlyingcausesofunder-participationmanyofwhichcannotbeaddressedbyhighereducationinstitutionsalone,butrequirecollaborationacrossthefullspectrumofScottisheducation.Schooleducationhasaparticularlyimportantroletoplayinthisregard.
Collegeregionalisation
12
Werecognisethatcollegeregionalisationisseenasameansofprovidingforgreatercollaborationbetweencollegesandaddressingduplicationofprovisionandunnecessarycompetitioninthesector.Inturn,thereisthepotentialtocreatelarger,stronger,moreinfluentialinstitutions.Regionalisation,formostcolleges,seemstobeacceptedasthebestwayforwardtopreserveservicestolearnersthroughoutScotlandinthecontextofreducedresources,andtofurtherenhanceservicesthroughacoherentapproachtoidentifyingandmeetingregionalpriorities.TheScottishGovernmentandtheSFCareworkingwithcollegestoimplementthearrangements.
13
Wearehoweverconcernedabouttheextenttowhichthecollegesectorcanimplementthisscaleofchangeandfulfilthewide-rangingeducation,trainingandlife-longlearningrolesexpectedofitinthefaceofthesubstantialfundingreductionsitisexperiencing.Inarecentreport
5
theDavidHumeInstitutehasshownthatthesectoriscost-efficientandcrucialineconomicandsocialterms.Italsoreachespartsofsocietythatotherelementsoftheeducationsystemfinddifficulttoreach.TheScottishGovernmentmustthereforeensurethatthecollegesectorisgivensufficientresourcestoenableittomeetlocalandnationalneeds.ThiswillhelpsupporttheGovernmentsaimofsustainableeconomicgrowthforScotland.
14
Collegemergersareexpectedtodelivercirca£50millioninannualsavings.Whilstthismaybeachievableinthelongerterm,mergerswillincursignificantupfrontcosts.Implementingmergerswiththeover-ridingaimofsavingmoneymayputatrisktheeducationalbenefitsofmergers.
15
Thecollegeregionsareheterogeneous,withsomemergersandsomefederationsandsomesinglecollegeregions.Theyvaryinsizefromverylarge(Glasgowwillbeaverylargemulti-collegeregioncombiningthealreadymergedCityofGlasgowCollegeandseveralothercolleges)tosmall(WestLothianhasonesmallcollege).Theywillhavevaryingscopetoachievesavingsandprovideservicestolearners.Thereisyettobeclarityaboutwhatstudentsandemployersmayexpectfromthenewlandscape,apartfromthepromiseofamoreefficientsystem.Itwillbeimportanttoensurethecollegeregionsarewellconnectedwiththefabric
andinfrastructureoftheregionsinwhichtheyoperate.
4
GuideforMembersofHigherEducationGoverningBodiesintheUK http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2009/200914/
5
FurtherEducation,theScottishLabourMarketandtheWiderEconomy;
TheDavidHumeInstitute;November2012

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