Delivering for Scotland: University Outcome Agreements 2012-13

Outcome agreements between the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and individual higher education institutions have been introduced as a key process in delivering and demonstrating universities’ impact from Scotland’s public investment in the sector.

In September 2011, following a Ministerial Letter of Guidance, the SFC developed its approach to outcome agreements. During the spring and summer of 2012 it then worked with all 19 HEIs to develop a first set of agreements.

This summary uses three overarching themes (opportunity, innovation and relevance) to explore the achievements and aspirations that institutions have set out.

Building a prosperous, innovative and inclusive nation

“The Scottish university sector is committed to using public investment in a way which builds a prosperous, innovative and inclusive nation. We have welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to invest in Scottish higher education at a level which ensures quality and competitiveness, and we are committed to demonstrating a return on that investment.”

– Professor Pete Downes OBE Convener, Universities Scotland

Commitment by all 19 Principals to promote equality of opportunity

“I strongly believe in widening access to our universities. University should be equally open to any learner with the appropriate academic potential to benefit, regardless of their social or economic circumstances. It is of equal importance that those learners are properly supported to complete their studies successfully and fulfil their potential. Each university is able to point to its own distinctive and considerable achievements already made in these areas.

“I am committed to delivering progress in the next few years and, in so doing, contributing to an improvement in the university sector in Scotland’s record on widening access and retention. Principals share the determination that universities should play the fullest role possible in the pursuit of these goals, working in partnership with schools, colleges and others. This is the spirit in which I will lead work within my institution to meet the outcomes on access and retention that have been agreed with the Scottish Funding Council.”

What do the outcome agreements say?

Scottish universities have made significant individual commitments to aim to increase the number or proportion of entrants from currently underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds. A majority of institutions have set out an aim to increase the number or proportion of entrants from deprived areas, as defined by the SIMD. In addition, many institutions have set ambitious goals to increase entrants from other under-represented groups, such as local applicants with no prior direct family experience of HE or applicants from schools with low rates of progression to HE.

Scotland’s universities are at the heart of the nation’s innovation system. Key to knowledge exchange is the creation of strong relationships between the academic and business community and the sector is working to simplify the pathways for business.

The outcome agreements demonstrate that the continuous change needed for relevance is taking place, with institutions reshaping their portfolio of courses, their curricula and their approaches to teaching and learning to ensure that they are not only relevant to the current labour market but are also equipping students with the skills and flexibility to succeed in an uncertain future.

Institutions’ promotion and support for enterprise and entrepreneurship amongst its undergraduate population is also prominent in institutions’ outcome agreements. This work is assisted nationally by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) which helps not only to support students and graduates wanting to create their own businesses but also imbues graduates with a broader entrepreneurial spirit valued in the labour market (“intrapreneurship”).

Key Points:

  • Outcome Agrees demonstrate universities are delivering real value for Scotland’s people and the economy.
  • All Principals are committed to promoting wide access to university, including wide use of contextual admissions which recognise a candidate’s circumstances.
  • They have a new focus on retention standards to close the gap between learners from the most and least challenged backgrounds.
  • They will deliver a step change in how the university sector can engage with Scottish business.


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