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Protecting universities' world class status

Published: 14 Jan 2016 14:00
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Amendments to Higher Education Governance Bill planned.

The Scottish Government will move to strengthen legislation aimed at improving the inclusivity and transparency of higher education governance.

Ministers plan to lodge amendments at Stage 2 of Parliament's consideration of the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill, including the following:

  • Removal of sections giving Ministers the power to make regulations to alter the composition of governing bodies and academic boards in future
  • Provision for a model for the appointment and election of the most senior lay member of the governing body of each Higher Education institution
  • Remuneration provisions to be altered to provide only that institutions must offer reasonable remuneration to an elected chair
  • No obligation to limit numbers on their academic boards or senates to 120.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Angela Constance confirmed the moves in her opening speech in the Bill's Stage 1 debate. She said:

"We want every voice on campus to be heard and for the university sector to be more open and transparent. The Higher Education Bill aims to do just that, without affecting universities' autonomy or the current role of rectors in those universities that have one, and presents no threat to their financial wellbeing.

"However, I have said from the very start of this process that we would listen to stakeholders and interested parties and we have done so. I signalled before Christmas that we would consider some amendments to mitigate the perceived risk around reclassification by the ONS and can today confirm that they will be brought forward at Committee when Stage 2 takes place next month.

"I do not agree with the assessments made on potential reclassification or the implications for charitable status, and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has also been clear that it did not consider the Bill a risk to charitable status. However, this move will ensure any lingering doubts about either reclassification or charitable status are alleviated.

"Our higher education institutions are a great source of pride to Scotland that enjoy a worldwide reputation for excellent teaching and research. But like any other group of high-performing organisations, they are capable of modernisation, change and improvement. I want our institutions to embrace the changes that this Bill will introduce and create a stronger, more accountable system of governance."