Our History

Delivering for higher education for almost 25 years

Universities Scotland has represented the interests of Scotland’s higher education institutions for nearly 25 years.

We work autonomously as part of Universities UK, as the national council for Scotland on all Scottish matters, having decided to partner with UUK five years after our establishment. Universities Wales is part of the same family.

1992

Universities Scotland, was established as the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals (CoSHEP). At the time of our establishment Scotland had 8 universities and a number of other higher education institutions.

CoSHEP’s first formal meeting took place on 13 October 1992 and the first Secretary to the organisation was Robert Crawford.

Interestingly, our archives suggest that the need for a sector-wide organisation to represent the interests of higher education in Scotland arose because of the Funding Council present at the time. When the funding of higher education was devolved to SHEFC, the Council was only prepared to deal with the sector in ‘aggregate’. This required new levels of cooperation and coordination from higher education institutions.

Our records show that CoSHEP was quick to achieve consensus across the membership: “especially in regards to future funding prospects”. Members recognised CoSHEP was the best forum to articulate legitimate differences of view within the sector as well as reach agreed positions.

1999

Higher education is fully devolved to Scotland with the creation of a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

CoSHEP enters into a formal relationship with the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), operating in England, which was later to become Universities UK.

David Caldwell becomes Director. He was previously Secretary of Robert Gordon University.

CoSHEP moves from Glasgow to Edinburgh to be close to Holyrood, the new Parliament for the then Scottish Executive.

2000

CoSHEP and CVCP do away with their acronyms and change their names to Universities Scotland and Universities UK respectively.

Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, is our Convener for a two year term.

2007

We expanded to include international policy as part of our remit and increased our staff numbers to 15 with support from the Scottish Funding Council for an additional policy officer. Professor Joan Stringer is the first Convener of our new International Committee.

2008

Professor Anton Muscatelli is elected as Convener. Anton started the role as Principal of Heriot-Watt University and later became Principal of the University of Glasgow. Professor Joan Stringer, Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, is Vice Convener.

2009

Alastair Sim joins as Director. David Caldwell retires after ten years in the role.

2012

Professor Pete Downes becomes our Convener and Professor Petra Wend our Vice Convener. Both were elected to the roles by their peers.

We relocated to new offices on Holyrood Road close to the Scottish Parliament. The first change of address for us over 10 years.

2014

We held a one-off awards ceremony to celebrate the many and varied contributions made by universities and colleges to the success of the biggest ever sporting event held in Scotland, the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Game Changer Awards were the idea of our University Games Group, chaired by Professor Gerry McCormac, and won funding support from the Scottish Funding Council.

2016

The UK votes to leave the European Union in the June referendum. It becomes a key focus of UUK and US to highlight the potential impact on HE and to influence the negotiating priorities.

Professor Andrea Nolan is elected by her peers as Convener of Universities Scotland from 1 August. Andrea becomes the first woman to hold the role.