Briefings & Evidence

Briefing for Scottish Government debate on Delivering a World-Class Education System

Universities Scotland has provided MSPs with a short briefing ahead of a Scottish Government debate on Delivering a World-Class Education System on Tuesday 12 January.

In summary:


  1. Scotland’s higher education institutions, both old and new, perform exceptionally well on the world stage in their teaching and research.
  2. We have pioneered new approaches to teaching in HE, such as students as partners at the centre of enhancement-led reviews, which have been copied around the world. We are judged to be ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ in our research.
  3. Scottish HE is committed to continuous improvement in all that we do. Our commitment to embed and deepen entrepreneurship education in Making it Happen, launched late in 2015, is a good example of this enhancement approach as is our hard work to widen access.
  4. We believe in working proactively with the other partners in Scottish education – schools and colleges – to be mutually supportive of one another. We each have an important role to play.
  5. Scottish higher education does need to be funded at a level that will keep it world class. Higher education funding was cut by 3.3 per cent in the Scottish Government’s December draft budget. The sector recognised this as a good outcome at a time when the Scottish Government faces severe financial challenges. However, this settlement is not sustainable beyond the one year horizon. Scotland must work towards realising the long-term goal, agreed with Scottish Government in New Horizons in 2008, that HE should be funded at levels that would see it reach the OECD’s top quartile for investment in higher education.


Read Universities Scotland’s briefing for MSPs


The Scottish Government motion for the debate is as follows:

S4M-15282 Angela Constance: Delivering a World Class Education System—That the Parliament welcomes the OECD’s review of Scottish education, published on 15 December 2015; welcomes the findings of the review that much in the curriculum for excellence is positive, including the holistic approach, the four capacities, professional engagement, trust in teachers’ professional judgement and enthusiasm for learning and teaching; agrees that it paints a picture of a successful and effective school system, but one in which there are important areas for improvement; acknowledges the recognition of the Scottish Government’s determination to focus on achieving both excellence and equity in the education system; supports work to make the framework of the curriculum for excellence simpler for teachers, parents and carers, reducing bureaucracy and supporting a new sense of dynamism and energy; agrees with the OECD that the National Improvement Framework has the potential to provide a robust evidence base and that it will be a key means of driving work to close the attainment gap and strengthen formative assessment approaches; further agrees that Scotland has an opportunity to become a world leader in providing an integrated framework for evaluation and assessment, and believes that action taken as a result of this report will help to reach the Scottish Government’s goal of an excellent and equitable education system in which every young person across the country is able to achieve their full potential regardless of their family circumstances or the background that they are born into.