Universities Scotland has submitted written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee to be considered as part of its scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s Higher Education (Governance) Scotland Bill.
The written evidence notes that Scotland’s universities share the Scottish Government’s commitment to modern, inclusive and accountable higher education governance, and that higher education governance is already highly progressive.
However, the written evidence explains are specific concerns about the provisions of the Bill. In summary:
- The Bill grants Ministers unprecedented and far-reaching powers in university governance, which could be used by future Ministers to exert significant control. These are of significant concern in themselves and, additionally, could jeopardise universities’ current ONS classification.
- The Bill gives Ministers the power to decide how the chairs of governing bodies should be appointed. We are extremely concerned that this power may be used to require institutions to introduce ‘elected’ chairs who do not have the confidence of governing bodies, and who may be elected on the basis of policies opposed by the governing body. This would create conflict at the heart of governing bodies.
- The Bill creates intrinsically conflicted roles for interest group nominees on governing bodies, contrary to normal standards of good governance.
- Legislation to standardise the size and membership of academic boards is unjustified when institutions are highly diverse, is contrary to university autonomy, and would disenfranchise academic staff.