Scottish higher education : a continuing debate

Love, James (2012) Scottish higher education : a continuing debate. Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary, 36 (1). pp. 66-71. ISSN 2046-5378

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The period since the May 2011 Holyrood elections has seen a continuation of the debate over the future of Scottish Higher Education. This debate has contained several elements, including: continuing commitment to the policy of not charging tuition fees for undergraduate places supported by the Scottish Government, a better-than-expected post-election public funding settlement, discussion of senior management selection and remuneration, a governance review of Scottish universities, the mooting of the possibility of institutional mergers, the setting of student fees by individual universities for RUK students, the fining of institutions for breaching undergraduate number targets, the highlighting of issues around access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the extent of recruitment of fee-paying students from other parts of the UK, the potential eligibility of RUK students with dual nationality for tuition- free status in Scotland, concerns about gender balance among senior academic staff, and discussion of some institutions' decisions on discipline closures and associated job security. Such a list, albeit not exhaustive, highlights the types of matters which have been the focus of much media attention, and frequently universities have found themselves reacting to issues raised by politicians, campus unions and student organisations. One picture which has emerged strongly in the past year is that of a growing divergence between the Scottish and English sectors. This divergence has been driven primarily by the strongly related issues of tuition fees and public funding. Positions on these issues, like much else in the debate about universities, are often couched in terms of their importance for the future of the sector. One year on from the Holyrood elections, it is perhaps apposite to explore the question of 'Where stands the vision for the future of Scottish Higher Education?'