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Universities Scotland’s response to the call for evidence by the Scottish Government’s Commission on Widening Access

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 16:12
Scotland's universities believe in creating opportunities for people with the potential to succeed. Widening access is well established as a core activity for Scotland's 19 higher education institutions which means a deeply-held commitment to addressing underrepresentation within the student body. This paper was submitted to the Scottish Government's Commission on Widening Access on 20 July 2015 in response to its call for evidence. Read Universities Scotland's submission Scotland's universities believe in creating opportunities for people with the potential to succeed. Widening access is well established as a core activity for Scotland's 19 higher education institutions which means a deeply-held commitment to addressing underrepresentation within the student body. This paper was submitted to the Scottish Government's Commission on Widening Access on 20 July 2015 in response to its call for evidence. Read Universities Scotland's submission
Categories: Universities

Scotland's universities proud to produce graduates with the best record of professional level jobs in the UK

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 13:52
Data published today, 25 June 2015, by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) on Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education in the United Kingdom for the academic year 2013/14 showed that graduates from Scotland's 19 higher education institutions have the best record of professional level jobs in the UK.Today's figures also show:The proportion of those in graduate level jobs was four per cent higher than their peers in the rest of the UK at 73 per cent (compared to the UK average of 68 per cent). Graduates from Scottish universities had the highest rate of positive destinations in the UK (work and/or further study) at 89.9 per cent compared to the UK average 88.8 per cent.Graduates from Scottish universities had the highest mean average starting salaries in the UK at £22,500, compared to the UK average of £21,500). Data published today, 25 June 2015, by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) on Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education in the United Kingdom for the academic year 2013/14 showed that graduates from Scotland's 19 higher education institutions have the best record of professional level jobs in the UK.Today's figures also show:The proportion of those in graduate level jobs was four per cent higher than their peers in the rest of the UK at 73 per cent (compared to the UK average of 68 per cent). Graduates from Scottish universities had the highest rate of positive destinations in the UK (work and/or further study) at 89.9 per cent compared to the UK average 88.8 per cent.Graduates from Scottish universities had the highest mean average starting salaries in the UK at £22,500, compared to the UK average of £21,500).A spokesperson for Universities Scotland said:"Today's figures are great news for Scotland's students and particularly those graduating this summer as once again Scottish graduates have higher levels of positive destinations of work or further study than the UK average. Of those that go straight into work it is so encouraging to see that Scotland is better than the UK average for the proportion going straight into graduate level jobs at 73 per cent. This builds on last year's figures and marks the impact of a university experience in Scotland that is very focussed on employability and on developing graduates with well-rounded skill sets."Scotland's universities are very proud of their record on graduate employability and this continues to be a real priority with time and investment in employability strategies. Universities are working closely with employers to design courses and create work placement opportunities for students, so that we are producing skilled graduates and a strong talent pool for Scotland to fill jobs and attract more businesses to invest in the country." NotesThe full data set for graduate destinations can be found on the HESA website here: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education in the United Kingdom for the academic year 2013/14.Due to the changes in the DLHE survey, it is not possible to reliably compare data before 2011/12.
Categories: Universities

Good governance remains the priority for Principals as a new bill on HE governance is introduced

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 11:08
As a new Bill on higher education governance is introduced to Holyrood today (Wednesday 17 June) university leaders said their priority would be working with politicians and stakeholders to ensure the final legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament is consistent with good governance with strong lines of accountability. Universities Scotland will give the Bill close scrutiny to ensure this.The Scottish Government's Bill, introduced to Parliament by Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, would enable Scottish Ministers to make regulations on how the Chairs of governing bodies should be appointed, including the possibility of election. The Bill provides for trades union, graduate and student association representatives on governing bodies. It extends the current statutory definition of academic freedom and makes provision about the size and composition of academic boards or senates.Scotland's universities are committed to transparency, accountability and inclusion in their governance. Staff and students already serve as members of the governing body at every institution and currently play a key role in the transparent and external process for the appointment of the Chair. As a new Bill on higher education governance is introduced to Holyrood today (Wednesday 17 June) university leaders said their priority would be working with politicians and stakeholders to ensure the final legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament is consistent with good governance with strong lines of accountability. Universities Scotland will give the Bill close scrutiny to ensure this.The Scottish Government's Bill, introduced to Parliament by Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, would enable Scottish Ministers to make regulations on how the Chairs of governing bodies should be appointed, including the possibility of election. The Bill provides for trades union, graduate and student association representatives on governing bodies. It extends the current statutory definition of academic freedom and makes provision about the size and composition of academic boards or senates.Scotland's universities are committed to transparency, accountability and inclusion in their governance. Staff and students already serve as members of the governing body at every institution and currently play a key role in the transparent and external process for the appointment of the Chair.Universities will focus particularly closely on two provisions within the Bill as it passes through Parliament; the proposals for the appointment of the Chair of the governing body and the proposal to extend governing body membership to people appointed by interest groups. On the appointment of the Chair, the proposals (at section 1 (1) and 1 (2) of the Bill) would be a significant transfer of powers from institutions to the Scottish Government as the drafting of the Bill puts the process for appointing a Chair at the discretion of Ministers.Universities Scotland welcomes the opportunity for further exploration of the issues before regulations are made. University leaders will work hard with Scottish Government and other stakeholders to find a way forward that both attracts diverse candidates who want to serve as chairs of court and allows for them to be selected in a way that commands the full confidence of the governing body.Universities want to see the continuation of strong lines of accountability between the membership of the governing body and the Chair. At present the governing body has the power to appoint, review performance and dismiss the Chair. A move to elections by any constituency other than the members of the governing body would threaten to weaken this strong line of accountability. There is potential for confusion and muddled accountability if the chair is elected on the basis of policies or promises that are opposed by the governing body.At present all members of the governing body, including staff, students, independent members and senior management have to act in the best interests of the institution. The Bill's intention to extend membership to representatives of interest groups introduces a potential conflict if these members serve simply as representatives of an interest group rather than bearing responsibility for the good governance of the institution.Universities Scotland will be seeking absolute clarity that all members of the governing body bear the same collective responsibility for the good governance and success of the institution.Commenting on the HE Governance Bill, Professor Sir Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of the University of Dundee said:"Universities believe we have a strong system of effective, inclusive and accountable governance in place. It is a system that is open to evolution and improvement. There is clear evidence of this evolution in the many changes that have been delivered with the support of staff and students in the last couple of years. "Any and all change to our governance methods must be to strengthen the core values of good governance such as accountability and objectivity. We intend to work with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to ensure that the proposals in the bill achieve that aim. Careful amendments will be needed to avoid the risk that lines of accountability are weakened or the objectivity of governors is compromised."Our current system of governance puts staff, students and independent members from Scotland's business and civic sectors at the heart of universities' strategic decision-making. That's as it should be as universities are here to serve a diverse range of communities. That provides a range of valuable perspectives - but ultimately every member of the governing body needs to take responsibility for decisions that promote the institution's success. It's also why you need an effective Chair with the full confidence of the governing body. "Universities don't want to see these lines of accountability and objectivity weakened and want to work with Parliament and Government to ensure this."In 2013 a new Scottish Code of Good HE Governance was introduced and implemented by Scotland's 19 higher education institutions. In under two years the Code has been responsible for over 350 progressive changes across the sector. The Chair at every institution is now appointed through a process of external and transparent recruitment with staff and student involvement in the selection committee.Six of the last seven appointments to the role of Chair have been women. Earlier this year Chairs of university courts committed to work towards securing a 40:40:20 gender balance amongst the independent members of court with a review of progress to take place in 2018.As the time of its introduction, Lord Smith of Kelvin who chaired the Steering Group for the Code of HE Governance promised a review of its effectiveness after three years. This is due to take place in 2016.
Categories: Universities

Congratulations to Professor Pete Downes on his knighthood

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 12:19
Universities Scotland's Convener, Professor Pete Downes has received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours list published on Saturday 13 June.Professor Downes has been Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee since 2009 and is currently serving his second term as Convener of Universities Scotland.Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said:"Professor Downes has contributed his commitment and leadership to the whole of Scotland's university sector."As convener of Universities Scotland, he has worked hard to maintain the excellence, autonomy and diversity of Scotland's higher education institutions during an exceptionally intense period of political interest."He has also made a distinctive and crucial contribution to creating policy to ensure that universities and businesses are working effectively together to promote our nation's prosperity." Universities Scotland's Convener, Professor Pete Downes has received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours list published on Saturday 13 June.Professor Downes has been Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee since 2009 and is currently serving his second term as Convener of Universities Scotland.Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said:"Professor Downes has contributed his commitment and leadership to the whole of Scotland's university sector."As convener of Universities Scotland, he has worked hard to maintain the excellence, autonomy and diversity of Scotland's higher education institutions during an exceptionally intense period of political interest."He has also made a distinctive and crucial contribution to creating policy to ensure that universities and businesses are working effectively together to promote our nation's prosperity."
Categories: Universities

Alastair Sim: Higher education must remain central

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 11:53
This piece originally appeared in The Scotsman on Thursday 21 May 2015 titled 'Much to learn in the post-7 May world'.THE seventh of May was an extraordinary night. A Conservative majority in Westminster and a landslide victory of 56 SNP MPs means the next five years promises to be anything but dull. Universities Scotland congratulates every Scottish MP, new and returned, and the SNP on achieving such a remarkable result.As higher education is almost entirely devolved to Holyrood anyone would be forgiven for thinking there is not a lot for Scotland's MPs to get stuck into when it comes to universities. However, some big issues of direct relevance to our universities are reserved to Westminster including billions of pounds of funding in the UK research councils, immigration and some aspects of innovation policy. That's before we consider the indirect impact of policy and funding decisions taken for universities in England and the rest of the UK on universities here in Scotland.Our universities are able to make the strongest contribution to Scotland when both Holyrood and Westminster deliver a supportive policy and funding environment. We will be looking to Scotland's 59 MPs to help us secure this at a UK-level. THE seventh of May was an extraordinary night. A Conservative majority in Westminster and a landslide victory of 56 SNP MPs means the next five years promises to be anything but dull. Universities Scotland congratulates every Scottish MP, new and returned, and the SNP on achieving such a remarkable result.As higher education is almost entirely devolved to Holyrood anyone would be forgiven for thinking there is not a lot for Scotland's MPs to get stuck into when it comes to universities. However, some big issues of direct relevance to our universities are reserved to Westminster including billions of pounds of funding in the UK research councils, immigration and some aspects of innovation policy. That's before we consider the indirect impact of policy and funding decisions taken for universities in England and the rest of the UK on universities here in Scotland.Our universities are able to make the strongest contribution to Scotland when both Holyrood and Westminster deliver a supportive policy and funding environment. We will be looking to Scotland's 59 MPs to help us secure this at a UK-level.Universities have a big role to play in Scotland's ambitions for a fair and equal society and a strong and inclusive economy. We create life-changing opportunities for people, whatever their background, to learn and to develop as confident and empowered individuals. Universities work as significant drivers of innovation and economic growth in their own right with £1.3 billion worth of exports, support for more than 140,000 jobs and the attraction of inward investment into Scotland. Our world-class research and its innovative application enables the growth of others with support for 18,000 Scottish SMEs and partnerships with big business. The centrality of the university role is recognised in the Scottish Government's refreshed economic strategy and its "can do" plans for Scotland to be an innovation nation. Our economic role comes full circle and reinforces the contribution universities make to Scottish society. The economist Joseph Stiglitz believes that inequality is linked with low economic growth and productivity. He recommends the creation of a learning society at the heart of economic policy as it holds the potential to increase productivity and standards of living.Turning back to Westminster, there are both opportunities and challenges facing our universities in a learning society. We need to see the opportunities realised so that universities can deliver more for Scotland.Most urgently, we need to see the return of a competitive post-study work offer to international students. This is win-win. It would help attract and retain more highly-skilled people to Scotland and help Scotland address its skills gaps, tackle its demographic challenges and associated productivity issues. Our home students benefit from enrichment of the learning experience by the presence of different nationalities, cultures and perspectives preparing them to be global citizens and much sought-after employees. Universities' contribution to Scotland's exports would also grow as a result, supporting Scotland's economic growth through the fees and off-campus expenditure of international students. There is cross-party support for the Smith Commission's recommendation to be taken forward in discussion between the Scottish and UK governments. This is a priority and we ask for the support of all of Scotland's MPs to help deliver this.Europe is also of key importance to Scotland's universities. It is essential to us that the UK opts to stay in Europe. Europe is our key partner in teaching, research and a rich source of funding that supports vital research of direct relevance to Scotland and creates jobs and growth. The freedom of movement of staff, students and ideas across Europe builds a higher quality and more competitive higher education. Scotland's universities and MPs must work together in making the case for Europe.Scotland gains from being part of a UK-wide ecosystem for research and innovation. Almost £1.6 billion of research funding is allocated annually to universities in the UK by the UK research councils. Last year Scottish universities brought more than 15 per cent of Research Councils UK funding back to Scotland through successful competition. There are additional pots of funding for UK-wide innovation programmes including Innovate UK which support "catapult" centres of business-focused innovation. Scotland has catapults in renewables and high-value manufacturing. We need to be sure that all future policy and funding decisions taken on cross-UK research and innovation continue to be inclusive of Scotland's interests.Whilst there are a great many things that unite them, Scotland's 19 higher education institutions have very different origins, characters, specialisms and strengths. This should be celebrated and protected as policy and funding decisions are made in Westminster (and Holyrood). Such diversity is an asset for Scotland in much the same way as our MPs will bring their diverse backgrounds, life experiences, personalities and priorities to their roles. We look forward to getting to know them and helping them to get to get to know us. There is much I hope we can achieve together.Alastair Sim, Director, Universities ScotlandThis piece originally appeared in The Scotsman on Thursday 21 May 2015 titled 'Much to learn in the post-7 May world'.
Categories: Universities

Scottish Government's Widening Access Commission - Membership and First Meeting

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 16:21
Universities Scotland has welcomed the publication of the full membership of the Scottish Government's Widening Access Commission ahead of its first meeting today (Wednesday 29 April).The Principals of two Scottish higher education institutions - Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of the University of Glasgow, and Professor Petra Wend, Principal of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh - are members of the Commission. Universities Scotland's Director, Alastair Sim, has been invited to present at the Commission's first meeting in Glasgow. Alastair will underline the sector's long-standing, deeply-held conviction that university should be accessible to all those with the qualifications and potential to succeed as he sets out the sector's current action on widening access. Universities Scotland has welcomed the publication of the full membership of the Scottish Government's Widening Access Commission ahead of its first meeting today (Wednesday 29 April).The Principals of two Scottish higher education institutions - Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of the University of Glasgow, and Professor Petra Wend, Principal of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh - are members of the Commission. Universities Scotland's Director, Alastair Sim, has been invited to present at the Commission's first meeting in Glasgow. Alastair will underline the sector's long-standing, deeply-held conviction that university should be accessible to all those with the qualifications and potential to succeed as he sets out the sector's current action on widening access. Alastair will explain that Universities Scotland has welcomed the Widening Access Commission as an opportunity to look in detail at some of the major challenges universities face in delivering their commitment to widening access and how partners, including the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council, can support institutions to deliver results.You can view the slides from Alastair's presentation to the Widening Access Commission here. NotesThe full membership of the Scottish Government's Widening Access Commission is as follows:Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of GlasgowLiz McIntyre, Principal, Borders College Ali Jarvis, Chair of SFC's Access & Inclusion Committee Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education, Glasgow City Council Gerry Lyons, Headteacher, St Andrew's Secondary School, Glasgow Jean Carwood-Edwards, Chief Executive, Scottish Pre-School Play AssociationHelen Martin, Assistant Secretary, Scottish Trades Union CongressRussell Gunson, Director, NUS ScotlandVonnie Sandlan, Women's Officer & President elect, NUS ScotlandProfessor Petra Wend, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen Margaret University, EdinburghCaroline Stuart, Oracle Ltd.
Categories: Universities

Scotland's higher education sector to pay staff the living wage

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 09:51
The Principals of Scotland's 19 higher education institutions have confirmed that they intend to pay the living wage to staff. Each Principal confirmed their intention to pay the living wage at their institution during Universities Scotland's Committee of Principals on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. Every member of staff covered by collective pay agreements at Scotland's 19 higher education institutions will be paid the living wage for the foreseeable future. The issue, along with other fair work issues, has been under consideration for a significant period and the sector has been working constructively with unions at a UK-level over the last year. Universities Scotland and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) have discussed this on multiple occasions. The STUC as well as the major unions recognised by Scotland's higher education institutions have been advised of this decision.The intention of every institution in the sector to pay the living wage for the foreseeable future is sincerely meant but it as far as the sector is able to commit at present given the unpredictable nature of annual increases in the living wage and uncertainty in higher education funding. The Principals of Scotland's 19 higher education institutions have confirmed that they intend to pay the living wage to staff. Each Principal confirmed their intention to pay the living wage at their institution during Universities Scotland's Committee of Principals on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. Every member of staff covered by collective pay agreements at Scotland's 19 higher education institutions will be paid the living wage for the foreseeable future. The issue, along with other fair work issues, has been under consideration for a significant period and the sector has been working constructively with unions at a UK-level over the last year. Universities Scotland and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) have discussed this on multiple occasions. The STUC as well as the major unions recognised by Scotland's higher education institutions have been advised of this decision.The intention of every institution in the sector to pay the living wage for the foreseeable future is sincerely meant but it as far as the sector is able to commit at present given the unpredictable nature of annual increases in the living wage and uncertainty in higher education funding.
Categories: Universities

Pete Downes: There are big risks in tying our universities up in unnecessary red tape

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 11:01
This piece originally appeared in The Herald on Monday 13 April 2015 titled 'There are big risks in tying our universities up in unnecessary red tape'.In the rush to get things done, sometimes the best approach is to pause, take a step back and revisit what it is you are hoping to achieve.The responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on higher education governance legislation are a clear indication that the Scottish Government should do exactly that. They make for a challenging read. They expose a depth and a breadth of concern.These concerns aren't just from the university sector. A broad swathe of civic Scotland has been very vocal in its objection to the Government's proposals. The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scottish Council Development and Industry, the Institute of Directors as well as student associations at Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee and Queen Margaret universities are just a few of those who have spoken out against aspects of the proposals. In the rush to get things done, sometimes the best approach is to pause, take a step back and revisit what it is you are hoping to achieve.The responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on higher education governance legislation are a clear indication that the Scottish Government should do exactly that. They make for a challenging read. They expose a depth and a breadth of concern.These concerns aren't just from the university sector. A broad swathe of civic Scotland has been very vocal in its objection to the Government's proposals. The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scottish Council Development and Industry, the Institute of Directors as well as student associations at Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee and Queen Margaret universities are just a few of those who have spoken out against aspects of the proposals.Independent voices have clearly identified how the legislative proposals would reduce the diversity of chairmen and women of university courts, create a muddle of conflicting accountabilities, and place universities' trade union partners in an impossible conflict of interest. Ultimately the planned legislation would reduce universities' effectiveness.Civic Scotland has added weight to universities' evidence-based concerns. There is a strongly-held belief amongst the majority of stakeholders that some of these proposals would deliver the very opposite of good governance and that legislation is not the right course of action.These views stack up in number. According to the analysis commissioned by the Scottish Government the proposal to elect the chairman or woman and ring-fence places on the governing body for representatives were opposed by 78 per cent and 67 per cent respectively with the suggestion of legislating to rename principals as Chief Executive Officers rejected by 91 per cent.The Scottish Government must reconsider. Now must be the time to consider other options for making progress with this agenda.Everyone with an interest in university governance shares a belief in robust accountability, transparency and diversity in our governance structures. We also believe in high-performing universities that are responsive to their many stakeholders including staff and students, government and other funders, business interests and the wider community.There is already a review of the code on higher education governance scheduled for next year. Moving forward in this way would remove the need for legislation but could also give a voice to those who call for further evolution of governance practice.The other shared belief is in high performing universities that deliver for Scotland. My fellow principals have a huge appetite for this and it is clear from the new economic strategy that the Scottish Government sees a central role for universities. The key themes of that strategy are:We're one of Scotland's best investments, generating more than £6 of gross added value for every £1 of Scottish Government investment and creating the skills for economic growth.We're Scotland's leading source of innovation, from blue-skies discovery to practical work with more than 19,000 Scottish businesses a year.We're a leading force for internationalisation, attracting nearly 30,000 students from 180 countries giving Scottish students the opportunity to learn from a wide range of cultures.We're deeply committed to inclusive growth, with outreach to all ages to enable learners from challenged socio-economic backgrounds to realise their full potential.Surely the priority must be to consider how universities can best increase these contributions? Well governed universities will help us do that. Tying the sector up in highly complex legislation which will fail to capture the diverse character and origins of Scotland's 19 higher education institutions is unlikely to help deliver anything productive.It would be easy to use the strongly adverse responses to this consultation as a reason for conflict. That is not what we want to achieve. Let's take the opportunity presented by the consultation responses to take a step back and take a more balanced look at how universities can continue to be progressive, open and accountable. The way forward lies in inclusive process of reviewing the current higher education governance code and a careful re-thinking of what the content of any legislation should be.Professor Pete Downes is covener of Universities Scotland and principal of the University of Dundee.This piece originally appeared in The Herald on Monday 13 April 2015 titled 'There are big risks in tying our universities up in unnecessary red tape'. 
Categories: Universities

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