Post-16 agenda laid out by the Minister puts universities at the heart of Scotland’s success

Universities Scotland welcomed today’s publication of the Scottish Government’s pre-legislative agenda for post-16 reform by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.

The pre-legislative paper includes announcements for universities, colleges and other aspects of the post-compulsory learning landscape in Scotland. Specific to universities, the proposals build on some of the areas discussed throughout the Green Paper on higher education consultation which ran from December 2010 to March 2011. As anticipated, the broad agenda includes draft proposals around how to streamline the learner’s journey through schools, college and university, widening access to university, funding and student finance, improved competitiveness, research and knowledge exchange and performance and governance.

Responding to the pre-legislative paper, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said:


“We share the fundamental belief, central to today’s announcement, that the learner should be the focus of and reason for any and all necessary change.

“We welcome the very strong recognition this paper gives to universities as the mainstay of our knowledge economy and as crucial to Scotland’s economic success. We welcome affirmation of the international standing we have achieved in teaching and research. However, we can always do better and we are committed to doing so.

“The breadth of these proposals and the fact they come under a broad banner of post-16 reform means there is a need for universities, colleges, staff, students and Government to work ever more closely together. To ensure we get this right for learners, this approach has to start now in terms of thinking through these ideas together in more detail.

“The report sets out some fairly bold and challenging ideas for a way forward but this was expected and universities will not look to duck difficult questions. We will work constructively and fully explore all the ideas outlined. While it’s right that the Government sets overall direction, close and continued partnership working between Government and its partners will be vital in developing some of the early ideas into successful outcomes. The paper repeatedly signals the need for a collaborative approach and gives universities the initiative to lead on certain projects.”


The paper, Putting Learners at the Centre, includes details of several new initiatives for the university sector which were not part of the Scottish Government’s previous Green paper exercise including proposals for international postdoctoral exchanges and a renewed focus on Scotland as the destination of choice for international students. Commenting on this, Alastair Sim said:


“Today’s pre-legislative paper includes several new and exciting initiatives including £0.5 million for international postdoctoral exchanges across Europe, North America, China and India. This will help universities to build on their international competitiveness which results in wider economic benefit to Scotland as a nation.”


The consultation document also outlines positive proposals to move towards a minimum income guarantee for university undergraduate students and signals greater consideration of change in regards to support for part-time learners. Alastair Sim commented:


“It’s good to see movement in the right direction on a minimum income guarantee for students and on part-time support, both of which have Universities Scotland’s support as part of our partnership working with NUS Scotland and UCU Scotland.”


The document published today is now subject to formal period of consultation which closes 23 December 2011. Universities Scotland will make a full and considered submission.