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University governance

Published: 10 Nov 2015 14:10
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Education Secretary gives evidence on Higher Education Governance Bill.

Education Secretary Angela Constance has repeated her commitment to introducing elected chairs of university courts and to opening up these roles to candidates from a wider range of backgrounds.

Speaking at the Education and Culture Committee Ms Constance said that she wanted to strengthen every voice on campus in making the important decisions guiding the work of our higher education institutions in future.

She said: "This committee has heard from staff, students and trade unions that have felt excluded from decisions affecting them; the frustration this causes and how addressing this would unite the different parts of the campus community. We have an excellent higher education sector, but we want to make higher education governance more transparent and inclusive.

"University principals have told this committee that they share our goals for transparency and accountability. Our universities are hugely important to our international reputation and the investment of more than £1 billion of public funding each year means the public, staff and students should be able to expect an open, modern system of governance.

"We continue to meet with the all sector stakeholders, to listen to their views and suggestions about how this would work in practice, including a model for how the election of court chairs will work."

In response to concerns raised that the Office for National Statistics might reclassify universities, the Education Secretary confirmed that the Scottish Government had considered this and were confident that the proposals are compliant with the indicators of government control employed by ONS in making determinations.

Notes to editors

The Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill can be read here. The bill will require higher education institutions ("HEIs") to appoint the chair of their governing body in accordance with an agreed, consistent process; ensure that staff, students and trade unions are included in the membership of HEI governing bodies; strengthen the current statutory definition of academic freedom by explicitly protecting the freedom to develop and advance new ideas and innovative proposals.

You can read the findings of the Independent review into Higher Education Governance, chaired by Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal of Robert Gordon University, here.