Universities Scotland news

Current News entries
Updated: 43 min 13 sec ago

Widening access to higher education in Scotland

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 14:11
The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) released its ninth Learning for All report on 24 March 2015. This brief pulls out some of the key facts from that report as they relate to higher education institutions and offers further analysis of SFC data. Read 'Widening access to higher education in Scotland' The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) released its ninth Learning for All report on 24 March 2015. This brief pulls out some of the key facts from that report as they relate to higher education institutions and offers further analysis of SFC data. Read 'Widening access to higher education in Scotland'
Categories: Universities

Advances on access to university for students of all backgrounds shows that taking a wide approach to widening access pays off

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 13:38
Figures released today by the Scottish Funding Council [Wednesday 25 March] in its ninth Learning for All report show increases in the number of students starting university from across a wide range of under-represented groups including:students living in Scotland's most deprived 20 and 40 per cent of neighbourhoods - up 10.1 per cent and 8 per cent respectively on last year (table 1).pupils from low participation schools - up 11.7 per cent on last year (table 2)students who enter university direct from college with full recognition of their Higher National qualification - up 9.2 per cent on last year (table 3)University efforts over the last year, building on what is a long-term priority of widening access within the higher education sector, have delivered further change to the profile of entrants to university with 14.0 per cent of all Scottish domiciled entrants now drawn from the most deprived 20 per cent of neighbourhoods (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, SIMD) and 30 per cent now drawn from the 40 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods.In recent years, universities have been encouraged to make the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation the focus of of their widening access programmes when it comes to targeting students and tracking progress. Universities have long argued that Scotland should take a wider approach to widening access, not least due to limitations inherent in SIMD as a measure and because using only the SIMD would mean other students not fitting this criteria, but with the potential to benefit from a higher education, would be overlooked.Commenting on the progress shown in today's figures, Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of the University of Dundee, said:"Universities are deeply committed to widening access to as many people that have the potential to benefit as possible. We have been working for decades to support people from all backgrounds into higher education. The progress made on widening access, demonstrated in today's figures, builds on steady improvement over the last few years. We are moving in the right direction and we are making a difference to people's lives."The goal is to widen access and it is a goal that everyone is committed to within higher education, throughout all levels of education and across all parties in our parliament. We want to see that commitment extend to policymakers taking a wide and inclusive approach to widening access because the people with the potential to benefit from a higher education, the people universities are reaching out to, are individuals with diverse sets of circumstances. "SFC's report highlights the continuing attainment gap between school leavers from deprived and privileged backgrounds. We welcome action to address this and look forward to making a full contribution to the widening access commission. Universities are committed to further progress to ensure that learners from every community can realise their full potential."Read the full Universities Scotland news release Figures released today by the Scottish Funding Council [Wednesday 25 March] in its ninth Learning for All report show increases in the number of students starting university from across a wide range of under-represented groups including:students living in Scotland's most deprived 20 and 40 per cent of neighbourhoods - up 10.1 per cent and 8 per cent respectively on last year (table 1).pupils from low participation schools - up 11.7 per cent on last year (table 2)students who enter university direct from college with full recognition of their Higher National qualification - up 9.2 per cent on last year (table 3)University efforts over the last year, building on what is a long-term priority of widening access within the higher education sector, have delivered further change to the profile of entrants to university with 14.0 per cent of all Scottish domiciled entrants now drawn from the most deprived 20 per cent of neighbourhoods (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, SIMD) and 30 per cent now drawn from the 40 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods.In recent years, universities have been encouraged to make the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation the focus of of their widening access programmes when it comes to targeting students and tracking progress. Universities have long argued that Scotland should take a wider approach to widening access, not least due to limitations inherent in SIMD as a measure and because using only the SIMD would mean other students not fitting this criteria, but with the potential to benefit from a higher education, would be overlooked.Commenting on the progress shown in today's figures, Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of the University of Dundee, said:"Universities are deeply committed to widening access to as many people that have the potential to benefit as possible. We have been working for decades to support people from all backgrounds into higher education. The progress made on widening access, demonstrated in today's figures, builds on steady improvement over the last few years. We are moving in the right direction and we are making a difference to people's lives."The goal is to widen access and it is a goal that everyone is committed to within higher education, throughout all levels of education and across all parties in our parliament. We want to see that commitment extend to policymakers taking a wide and inclusive approach to widening access because the people with the potential to benefit from a higher education, the people universities are reaching out to, are individuals with diverse sets of circumstances. "SFC's report highlights the continuing attainment gap between school leavers from deprived and privileged backgrounds. We welcome action to address this and look forward to making a full contribution to the widening access commission. Universities are committed to further progress to ensure that learners from every community can realise their full potential."Extra places ring-fenced for accessThis year's data captures the beginning of the impact of new additional university places that were ring-fenced by the Scottish Government for students starting university in 2013/14 from the most deprived 40 per cent of neighbourhoods (SIMD40). The extra places were given to seven higher education institutions to enable them to make offers to a greater number of underrepresented students without increasing the pressure on places available to all students.Today's figures show the first year of this initiative has been successful. The group of seven higher education institutions which received additional widening access places increased the number of entrants from the poorest 20 per cent of neighbourhoods by 22 per cent in one year. Overall, the increase in entrants from the poorest 40 per cent of neighbourhoods increased by 19 per cent, meaning that very close to half of the additional places went to students from neighbourhoods affected by the worst levels of deprivation (table 1).Commenting on the additional places, Professor Downes said:"The extra places recognised that widening access at university level is more challenging when the competition for places is fierce because of high demand. With a 22 per cent increase in entrants from the poorest neighbourhoods to these institutions, the data show it has been successful and has helped many universities deliver a higher rate of progress this year than might otherwise have been possible. "We're right at the start of this new approach and we'd expect it to keep delivering in the years to come especially as the places were awarded mid-year and universities didn't have much time to get to promote the new places to the right audience or link-up to their partnerships with schools. More people could benefit from the idea behind the extra places if the criteria were widened beyond a narrow measure of deprivation to include other aspects of underrepresentation."Despite continued progress, universities are not complacent about the need to do more to open up opportunities to students from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible. The new ring-fenced access places, introduced in 2013, were given to institutions mid-way through the admissions process which meant there was limited time to raise awareness and encourage people to apply. The initiative has been rolled on for subsequent years and this will allow universities to make better connections between the additional places and their outreach programmes and links with schools. RetentionThe data show the boost to widening access is matched by further increases in university retention rates with another year-on-year improvement to 91.3 per cent of full-time Scottish domiciled undergraduate students. The statistics also show good progress in improving in the retention rates of students from the poorest 20 per cent and 40 per cent of neighbourhoods according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD20 and SIMD40). The retention rate for students from SIMD20 neighbourhoods now sits at 87.3 per cent, up from 85.5 per cent last year and 84 per cent four years ago. Performance Indicators also publishedThe Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) also released performance indicators today showing access and retention figures for universities across the UK. This set of data also show Scotland's higher education institutions making progress on measures of access and retention although differences in the methodological approach taken by the Scottish Funding Council and HESA, with the SFC primarily focusing on the progress amongst Scottish-domiciled students at Scottish higher education institutions, mean the data do not necessarily correspond across the datasets. The HESA performance indicators can be found here: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/pisNOTESThe SFC's ninth Learning for All report can be found here: http://www.sfc.ac.uk/communications/Statisticalpublications/2015/SFCST062015.aspx The data in the tables below is taken from that available in the SFC report and in additional tables made available online by the SFC.Data tables are available in the PDF version of this Universities Scotland news release here. 
Categories: Universities

Alastair Sim: Life as an academic

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:52
This piece originally appeared in The Scotsman on Wednesday 25 March 2015 titled 'Academic work more than satisfactory'. I was surprised to read the results of a YouGov poll last month that found more people across Britain wanted to be a university academic than a TV presenter, interior designer or Hollywood star. The role of academic was the third most popular out of 31 occupations. It was beaten only by author and librarian, which led the report to suggest it was the thought of a "quiet intellectual life" that appealed to people. Quiet is probably one of the last words that academics in our universities today would use to describe their job. Whether working in an academic, professional or support role university staff face the same high expectations, pressures and demanding schedule as most other professions. Universities - and so their staff - face a demanding set of expectations from students (fee-paying or not), from businesses, their communities, government, charity and other investors. It's not an easy role. Scotland's higher education sector already has it right on democratic approach to management/union relations, writes Alastair SimI was surprised to read the results of a YouGov poll last month that found more people across Britain wanted to be a university academic than a TV presenter, interior designer or Hollywood star. The role of academic was the third most popular out of 31 occupations. It was beaten only by author and librarian, which led the report to suggest it was the thought of a "quiet intellectual life" that appealed to people. Quiet is probably one of the last words that academics in our universities today would use to describe their job. Whether working in an academic, professional or support role university staff face the same high expectations, pressures and demanding schedule as most other professions. Universities - and so their staff - face a demanding set of expectations from students (fee-paying or not), from businesses, their communities, government, charity and other investors. It's not an easy role.This being the case, it's probably more surprising that satisfaction levels are so high among university employees. More than 80 per cent of staff polled last year said their job was a source of satisfaction and close to three-quarters said they found it rewarding. There has been a lot of focus in recent months on the fair work agenda in Scotland with the creation of a Cabinet secretary for fair work, skills and training and the publication of the Working Together report on workplace relations. Higher education institutions are well-placed when it comes to this agenda, if not ahead of many sections of our economy, and that is probably no small contributing factor to high levels of staff satisfaction.Many of the recommendations in Jim Mather's Working Together review are already standard practice within the sector. He wanted an increase in workplace democracy with worker membership on boards. This is the case for every university as academic and non-academic staff sit on the governing body, elected by their peers. The second most powerful body within a university is that of the academic board or senate which regulates teaching and research matters. This gives the academic community a strong, democratic voice.The report also called for greater value to be placed on partnership between management and unions. Again, this is well-established with joint negotiating committees between university management and unions representing 27 per cent of university staff. Working Together also favoured industry-wide collective bargaining. Every UK university is involved in annual collective pay bargaining which last year saw staff awarded a 2 per cent rise.We are confident that close to 100 per cent of staff working across the university sector, covered by collective pay arrangements and working a 35-hour week, is at or above the living wage. The sector has taken action, such as in 2014-15, to "bottom-weight" the pay deal so that the hourly rate equivalent for someone on the lowest pay spine point and working 35 hours a week came into line with the living wage. We are also considering what further, sustainable, action we might be able to take. A commitment has already been made that the new rate of living wage for 2015-16, announced last November, will be part of the discussions for the 2015-16 pay settlement. Flexible contracts are in use where this makes sense for the employer and employee. Student shifts at ad hoc university events or guest lecturers from business and industry coming to share their practical experience as part of the teaching programme would be examples of where these kind of contracts serve a purpose. But no university in Scotland makes use of exploitative contracts which keep people "on call" for speculative work or apply exclusivity clauses so staff are unable to take employment elsewhere. University management has also agreed on joint work with the unions to define the appropriate use of flexible contracts. Scotland's 19 higher education institutions employ close to 40,000 people. Inevitably within a workforce of that scale there are issues of contention and dissatisfaction. For a sector that exists to encourage freedom of thought and critical thinking it is no surprise that staff take different views to that of management on some issues. However, we have the mechanisms to address those issues and discuss our disagreements constructively with staff in an open and robust form whether that's in the joint negotiating committees with unions, at senate meetings or at the very highest level in the governing body. Working as an academic is a popular and challenging choice of career. Let's work together to keep improving its satisfaction.Alastair Sim, Director, Universities Scotland This piece originally appeared in The Scotsman on Wednesday 25 March 2015 titled 'Academic work more than satisfactory'.  
Categories: Universities

Scotland's universities welcome appointment of Chair to Widening Access Commission

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 14:17
Universities Scotland has today, Tuesday 17 March, warmly welcomed the announcement of Dame Ruth Silver's appointment to Chair the Scottish Government's Commission on Widening Access.Scotland's universities are committed to widening access to university for every single child with the desire and ability, no matter what their background, and are supportive of the establishment of a Widening Access Commission which will take a holistic perspective on how to enhance young peoples' attainments and opportunities. Every one of Scotland's 19 higher education institutions is committed to promoting wide access to higher education and will support the work of the Commission, contributing in shared responsibility to raising the educational attainment of all of Scotland's school pupils and in closing the attainment gap that is already evident between Scotland's wealthiest and poorest children as young as five years of age. Welcoming today's announcement Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland said: "We fully support Dame Ruth and the work of the Commission to address the issue of narrowing the attainment gap. We look forward to working with her and all the members of the Widening Access Commission in our shared ambition to ensure that every learner has the opportunity to benefit from a university education and realise their full potential." "Dame Ruth's extensive personal and professional experience will bring a wealth of understanding and knowledge to the appointment, in recognising that access to university is a shared challenge and there is a role for schools, colleges and, local authorities to play in this as well as universities. We are all united in our determination to raise attainment, and we hope that the membership of that Commission will reflect the breadth of contributions to widening access. Every level in Scotland's education sector has a shared responsibility and commitment if we are to make a significant difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged of society." Universities Scotland has today, Tuesday 17 March, warmly welcomed the announcement of Dame Ruth Silver's appointment to Chair the Scottish Government's Commission on Widening Access.Scotland's universities are committed to widening access to university for every single child with the desire and ability, no matter what their background, and are supportive of the establishment of a Widening Access Commission which will take a holistic perspective on how to enhance young peoples' attainments and opportunities. Every one of Scotland's 19 higher education institutions is committed to promoting wide access to higher education and will support the work of the Commission, contributing in shared responsibility to raising the educational attainment of all of Scotland's school pupils and in closing the attainment gap that is already evident between Scotland's wealthiest and poorest children as young as five years of age. Welcoming today's announcement Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland said: "We fully support Dame Ruth and the work of the Commission to address the issue of narrowing the attainment gap. We look forward to working with her and all the members of the Widening Access Commission in our shared ambition to ensure that every learner has the opportunity to benefit from a university education and realise their full potential." "Dame Ruth's extensive personal and professional experience will bring a wealth of understanding and knowledge to the appointment, in recognising that access to university is a shared challenge and there is a role for schools, colleges and, local authorities to play in this as well as universities. We are all united in our determination to raise attainment, and we hope that the membership of that Commission will reflect the breadth of contributions to widening access. Every level in Scotland's education sector has a shared responsibility and commitment if we are to make a significant difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged of society." NotesThe proportion of undergraduate university entrants from SIMD20 increased in 2012-13 from 12.8% to 13.3%, and the proportion from SIMD40 increased from 28.6% to 29%.What are universities doing to raise attainment? All Scotland's higher education institutions are working hard to promote wide access to university-level education, in a life-cycle approach which extends from the earliest years to the third age. See Access All Areas. Examples include:Interventions in the pre-school and primary years Interventions in the pre-school and primary years e.g. Glasgow Caledonian University's Caledonian Club which works with young people and families in deprived areas of Glasgow to raise educational aspirations and to open the University to the community; University of Strathclyde's Children's University which allows children from age seven to experience further and higher education and access special lectures and conducted visits at the university and other learning activities; and Abertay University's highly interactive Tayside Space School which gives 80 primary school pupils the chance to study various aspects of space travel and exploration and raises their awareness of science and technology. Glasgow School of Art's Continuing Education department offers a wide range of courses for children aged seven to eleven years of age on Saturday mornings and afternoon as week-long courses during the summer.Interventions to promote aspiration in secondary-age children e.g. University of Edinburgh works with secondary schools and their feeder primaries to normalise structures and experiences of higher and further education for pupils who work with university staff and role model students; Edinburgh Napier University's Build a Business in a Day works with S2 pupils from ten schools across Fife, the Lothians and Borders to give an insight into entrepreneurship and teamwork in a university setting; and Entry to the Creative Industries run by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland provides opportunities and tailored support to pupils who are interesting in progressing in the performing or production arts from 37 schools in the west of Scotland with below average progression rates to higher education.Interventions to support senior phase learners to achieve qualifications for university-level study e.g. University of Aberdeen's S6@Uni programme works in partnership with schools in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to provide a broad range of opportunities for S6 pupils including courses to complement existing Advanced Highers or replace provision at the same SCQF level where no Advanced Higher is offered; Queen Margaret University's innovative Academy model is pushing the boundaries of traditional education to offer real job and education opportunities to senior school pupils in Edinburgh, East and Midlothian in partnership with the local college, local authorities and industry; and the national SCHOLAR programme of e-learning courseware offered by Heriot-Watt University incorporates interactive, engaging online materials in over 30 courses for use by students in their final year of school to help reshape their skills for the challenges of the 21st century.Interventions such as summer schools to give learners from challenged backgrounds an extra chance e.g. University of St Andrew's Sutton Trust Summer School has 130 pupils with backgrounds of socio-economic and education disadvantage participating each year with a focus to encourage them to apply for competitive courses and universities; and the University of Dundee's DUAL summer school which has been running for 21 years offers students a six-week intensive tuition programme to prove they can take a place at university and acclimatises them to the demands they will face. Similarly The University of Glasgow runs Taster Weeks in June or July every year with up to 200 S5 and S6 pupils participating, some of whom will come from schools with a low progression rate to higher education and others will live in the 40 per cent most disadvantaged areas. Links with colleges e.g. Robert Gordon University is the lead institution within the north-east articulation hub in conjunction with Aberdeen College and Banff & Buchan College and has formal agreements in place with a number of others. At the heart of the creation of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) has been the desire to bring together the four land based education institutions into one. SRUC students are identified and supported towards their future study plans earlier in their academic careers, enabling pupils to leave school with National 4s an and 5s, specialising in land based subject at the earliest opportunity. The University of Stirling's Twogether are innovative education and skills programmes in applied biological sciences and heritage and conservation that go o beyond traditional 2 +2 articulation arrangements between further education colleges and universities and are wholly integrated with student enrolled as college and university students.Promotion of ‘second chances' to learn e.g. the Open University in Scotland's Openings modules which are open to adults from all educational backgrounds as a gentle introduction to further study and allow students to earn 15 credits at SCQF level 7 for successfully completing them; the University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of Access to courses designed to help people into university study who have been away from study for a number of years or lack the usual entry requirements; and the University of the West of Scotland's Making Experience Count programme at its Lifelong Learning Academy gives advice and guidance to students and staff on Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to help them decide on further study or personal and professional development options.
Categories: Universities

Cut to university research funding see Scotland's "world class" universities as victims of their own success

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 14:44
Allocations of the Scottish Funding Council's main research grants for higher education institutions were announced today (6 March). The announcement confirms a much-feared cut of £12.9 million to funds available for university research next year. Several individual universities will lose millions in funding despite returning their strongest performance in "world-leading" research as confirmed by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) only two months ago.Universities only receive public funding for research judged to be "world leading" or "international excellent" (work rated 4* and 3*) according to a formula calculated by the Scottish Funding Council. As the REF judged a greater proportion of the work submitted by all eighteen of Scotland's universities[1] to be at the highest levels of excellence, a smaller total pot of funding must now be shared more thinly across a greater number of institutions with high levels of 3* and 4* research.Read the full Universities Scotland news release.  Allocations of the Scottish Funding Council's main research grants for higher education institutions were announced today (6 March). The announcement confirms a much-feared cut of £12.9 million to funds available for university research next year. Several individual universities will lose millions in funding despite returning their strongest performance in "world-leading" research as confirmed by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) only two months ago.Universities only receive public funding for research judged to be "world leading" or "international excellent" (work rated 4* and 3*) according to a formula calculated by the Scottish Funding Council. As the REF judged a greater proportion of the work submitted by all eighteen of Scotland's universities[1] to be at the highest levels of excellence, a smaller total pot of funding must now be shared more thinly across a greater number of institutions with high levels of 3* and 4* research.The Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen are all set to lose more than a million pounds in research funding because of the funding constraints. The Glasgow School of Art will also see a significant drop in its research funding. Other universities, with particular areas of research excellence including Queen Margaret University and the University of the Highlands and Islands produced stellar results in the 2014 REF, rocketing up UK league tables for research performance. They have been rewarded for their significant progress with meagre increases of only £128,000 and £400,000 respectively. Whilst the funding announcement comes as no surprise it is disappointing to the higher education sector particularly as it comes in the same week at the Scottish Government's refreshed Economic Strategy which put a priority on innovation and recognised the role that universities can play in Scotland's economic growth. The document said that: "investing in Scotland's universities, supporting their world-class and high-impact research... is at the heart of the Scottish Government's ambitions for Scotland."[2]Universities will be looking for reconsideration of the cut to research funding in the next spending review.Responding to the funding allocations Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal at the University of Dundee, said:"It is incredibly disheartening to go from such a high in December and a feeling of great pride when our universities were confirmed as world-class and as delivering outstanding impact for Scotland through their research, to today's funding allocations which confirm that many will lose out and there is no scope to build on that success. It's very difficult not to feel like universities have become victims of their own success."We have a fantastic asset here in the quality of our research. Scotland should be investing in its strengths. The quality of our basic research links to our nation's innovation potential, to business growth, to inward investment and ultimately plays a significant role in Scotland's strategy for economic growth. Universities are hungry for the chance to maximise their contribution to Scotland's economy and the REF showed we're more than up to the task so for our funding to slip into reverse at a time when the evidence points to the opposite is a missed opportunity. "We hope the Scottish Government will be open to talking to us about this and that something can be done in the next set of spending decisions taken this summer."Across the sector all 18 of Scotland's higher education institutions were found in the REF exercise to undertake world-class research with the total proportion of research at world-class and internationally excellent levels increasing from 52 per cent the last time this exercise was conducted in 2008 to 77 per cent in 2014. Scottish universities out-performed England when it came to being judged on the impact of their research, whether that impact was economic, social or cultural. 85.8 per cent of Scottish research was judged to be at 4* and 3* - levels which means the research has had "outstanding" or "very considerable" impact compared to the UK average of 83.9 per cent. Examples of the impact of research in Scotland's universities includes:New computer algorithms for the life-saving matching of kidney donors with recipients by the University of Glasgow.Geochemical research at the University of St Andrews has helped to combat the global trade in illicit tobacco and its major consequences for health with a major contribution to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control policies.Dundee University's research on spacecraft technology has led to the SpaceWire standard which is being used in many spacecraft by space organisations around the world. University of Edinburgh's work to develop technologies based on XML (Extensible Markup Language) to enable the online experiences like ebay and BBC online that are so much part of the fabric of our daily lives.The University of the Highlands and Islands has undertaken research which has helped protecting Europe's waters from Eutrophication.Queen Margaret University Edinburgh's strength in speech sciences research has led to the commercial development of technologies and instruments which can diagnose and treat speech disorders.Today's announcement by the Scottish Funding Council only includes information on the Research Excellence Grant (REG) and does not calculate the impact of the loss of the Global Excellence Grant, which has been cut entirely and which had been worth £14 million to universities in 2013/14 and 2014/15. The table below shows the impact of REG reallocations and the loss of the Global Excellence Grant on institutions.Today's announcement is the first of three-years of phased changes to Research Excellence Grant allocations. Further cuts in individual institutions' REG allocations are programmed for 2016/17 and 2017/18. Notes:OU in Scotland treated as a UK institution for the purposes of the REF.http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Economy/EconomicStrategyThe Scottish Funding Council's indicative funding decisions for the Research Excellence Grant for AY 2015-16 to AY 2017-18 can be found here: http://www.sfc.ac.uk/communications/Announcements/2015/SFCAN062015.aspx The SFC document includes no reference to the Global Excellence Fund and so overlooks the impact that the loss of this grant will have on institutions. The table below includes this. Since 2013 universities have received research funding in the form of two grants allocated by formula; the Research Excellence Grant, worth around £240 million and the much smaller Global Excellence Grant, worth £14 million. Allocations for next year see the Research Excellence Grant increase by 0.5 per cent but the Global Excellence Grant cut entirely. This results in a total decrease of £12.9 million in research funding available to universities in 2015/16 relative to 2014/15. The table here shows the difference in funding universities will receive for blue-skies research in 2015/16 compared to 2014/15 as a result of REG reallocations and the loss of Global Excellence Grant.
Categories: Universities

Universities Scotland response to Scottish Government Consultation on a Higher Education Governance Bill

Tue, 02/03/2015 - 10:08
Scotland's university sector is committed to continual improvement of institutional governance, to ensure that is effective, inclusive, transparent and accountable. This has very recently been further modernised, through development and implementation of a new Scottish code of good higher education governance. Structures that reflect principles of good governance are vital in order to protect the autonomy that has made Scotland's higher education a global success story and to ensure the accountability that gives government and stakeholders confidence in our institutions. Read Universities Scotland's full university governance consultation response Scotland's university sector is committed to continual improvement of institutional governance, to ensure that is effective, inclusive, transparent and accountable. This has very recently been further modernised, through development and implementation of a new Scottish code of good higher education governance. Structures that reflect principles of good governance are vital in order to protect the autonomy that has made Scotland's higher education a global success story and to ensure the accountability that gives government and stakeholders confidence in our institutions. Read Universities Scotland's full university governance consultation response
Categories: Universities

Universities Scotland's response to the Scottish Government's Consultation on a Higher Education Governance Bill

Tue, 02/03/2015 - 10:00
Universities Scotland has today, Tuesday 3 February, published its response to the Scottish Government's university governance consultation. Universities Scotland's Convener, Professor Pete Downes, has commented on a number of aspects of the Scottish Government's consultation and these press comments can be read in full here. You can read the response in full here.   Universities Scotland has today, Tuesday 3 February, published its response to the Scottish Government's university governance consultation. You can read the response in full here. Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland, has commented on a number of aspects of the university governance consultation: University autonomy and diversity"Principals believe in inclusive, transparent and robustly accountable models of governance and to that end we have common ground amongst our stakeholders and Government. We are utterly convinced that universities are most successful when they can operate with high levels of autonomy as the evidence from around the world supports this. Therefore some of the proposals are very worrying as they would unquestionably move Scotland towards a less autonomous model of university governance and impose greater uniformity in a one-size-fits-all approach." Progressive not rigid governance"Universities have a progressive model for delivering good governance. The university sector is committed to its own continuous enhancement of governance practice and the new code of good governance of 2013 is a good demonstration of this as it delivered over 300 new actions across the university sector to enhance accountability, transparency and diversity, building on what was already a robust system. Staff and students have a formal role in the strategic decisions taken by all universities, they have a formal role in scrutinising senior management and a formal role in the appointment and appraisal of the two most senior positions in a university. The new reforms should be given a chance to bed-in and fully take effect but this does not mean the end. When the new code was published a clear commitment was given to review it in 2016. We believe that is the time and best way to evaluate whether and what further change might be needed in university governance. That allows for progressive evolution rather than the rigidity that comes from legislation." Proposals that carry the potential to weaken not strengthen governance"Universities receive significant levels of public investment and so expect to be fully accountable for that funding. We expect our governance to be scrutinised by a staff and student population who are encouraged to question and challenge as a core part of how they work and study. This is very healthy for our sector. But this also means we must question the value and evidence base for the consultation's proposals. We are open to exploring the role of the privy council in university governance, provided a new model is depoliticised, as we think it could have the potential to improve transparency and efficiency. However, we are unconvinced of the need for, or benefits to be gained from many of the other proposals which represent a major erosion of university autonomy, something the Government is clear in saying it does not wish to do. A couple of the proposals carry an unintended risk of weakening the strong lines of accountability that already exist between the Chair and the governing body and of undermining a core principal of good governance which is that every member of a governing body surrenders their self-interest upon joining. They are so central to good governance it is vital they are protected. "We recognise that our staff, student and political stakeholders share our interest in upholding the principles of good governance and hope there will be plenty of opportunity to consider the responses to the consultation and discuss the best way forward together. We look forward to a constructive dialogue with Scottish Government." On proposals for a representative role for trade unions on the governing body"University leaders are committed to a close and constructive relationship with their recognised trade unions, who represent just over a quarter of university staff. This dialogue takes place in forums such as joint negotiating committees where the interests of each partner are clear. We believe it would be wrong in principle to create a ‘representative' role for trade unionists on governing bodies: it is fundamental to good governance that the members of governing bodies act only in the interests of the institution. A ‘representative' trade union member of a governing body would be placed into a conflict of interest between their duties as a governor and their mandate from their trade union.  "We also believe it is undemocratic to privilege the interests of the minority of staff who have chosen to join a trade union. Staff are currently free to elect who they choose to governing bodies, including trade unionsists."  On gender balance amongst governing bodies"Equality and diversity is an issue that universities take very seriously and we have been delighted to see the gender balance amongst the position of Chairs shift significantly in the last year with women appointed on merit to fill five out of the last six vacancies. Further measures are being taken to encourage a wider range of applicants and this goes beyond gender to include other protected characteristics. This is a responsibility that everyone on the governing body, including staff and student members, has to take seriously if we are to achieve a gender balance. As governors typically serve for two or three years, with the option of renewal, this will take some time to achieve but the commitment is there."
Categories: Universities

Much to toast in the research record of our universities

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 10:45
It's a big day for thousands of Scotland's academics. It's also a big day for Scotland.For the first time since 2008, all the best academic research in the UK has been independently evaluated. Scotland has performed outstandingly well with over three-quarters of all research submitted judged as being world-leading or internationally excellent. This is a huge achievement. I'm sure academics, and entire universities, are now breathing a collective sigh of relief. Christmas has come early and the results certainly bring an extra bit of sparkle to the festive season.Read Alastair Sim's analysis of the Research Excellence Framework 2014 in full here.(Originally appeared in The Herald on 18 December 2014 as 'Much to toast in the research record of our universities') It's a big day for thousands of Scotland's academics. It's also a big day for Scotland.For the first time since 2008, all the best academic research in the UK has been independently evaluated. Scotland has performed outstandingly well with over three-quarters of all research submitted judged as being world-leading or internationally excellent. This is a huge achievement. I'm sure academics, and entire universities, are now breathing a collective sigh of relief. Christmas has come early and the results certainly bring an extra bit of sparkle to the festive season.It is hard to over-estimate how important Research Excellence Framework is to academics. It's an important marker of individual and team success. It can mark people out as rising stars. It offers a strong external validation of the value and importance of work that often takes place outside the public eye. It's the reason that universities competitively poach staff from across the world ahead of submission deadline like football teams during the transfer window. The results have a massive bearing on the levels of research funding universities will receive, with no funding given for anything less than "internationally excellent" research so it is fundamental to the performance of the whole institution for the next few years. This year's results show that Scotland still excels in competition with the very best institutions at the cutting edge of research. That's the basis on which universities lever over £1.3 billion of export earnings into Scotland each year, from external parties buying our excellent research and from international students who choose to come here because of our excellenceFor the first time, the assessment of research excellence has gone beyond a measure of quality to also measure the impact that universities' research has beyond the university. Again, Scotland excels, with 86% of research having outstanding or very considerable impact.But what does this mean?Some of it is what you might expect - big science making a big difference. For instance, the University of Strathclyde's research is fundamental to the implementation of 'smart grids' for more efficient energy distribution. Some of it is about the technologies that shape our lives online. For instance, the University of Edinburgh's work to develop technologies based on XML (Extensible Markup Language) to enable the on-line experiences like ebay and BBC online that are so much part of the fabric of our daily lives.Some of our impact is, perhaps, less like what you'd expect. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland has transformed audiences' experience of plays like Black Watch through innovative understanding of the human voice and its projection. And Scotland's Rural College has developed innovations in animal welfare that can transform the welfare of the estimated 58 billion broiler chickens transported annually. Even the goose on the table this Christmas may have benefitted from the impact of Scotland's university research.Some of the research recognised through the Research Excellence Framework is utterly fundamental to our understanding of the universe, whether at the level of cosmology or at the level of understanding quantum particles. The impact of this may be less obvious, but it's an essential part of our fundamental human curiosity to understand the universe and our place in it. So as the festive season approaches, let's pour ourselves a glass of 'Thor' whisky (developed by the University of the Highlands and Islands with the Edrington Group), enjoy an IQ Chocolate (developed with Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen University) and toast our nation's success. Alastair Sim, Director of Universities ScotlandThis analysis originally appeared in The Herald on 18 December 2014 as 'Much to toast in the research record of our universities'.
Categories: Universities

UK research assessment finds Scotland's higher education sector is 'world-class' and delivering outstanding impact

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 09:30
Today (Thursday 18 December) sees the publication of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results for all 154 higher education institutions across the UK. Key findings for Scotland:Every one of Scotland's 18* higher education institutions undertakes research judged to be of "world-leading" quality. The higher education sector in Scotland submitted research to all 36 units of assessment (broad subject groupings) and was judged to undertake research of "world leading" quality in all 36 units of assessment.Overall, 77 per cent of Scottish research submitted to the REF2014 was judged to be "world-leading" or internationally excellent (4* and 3* combined) on the overall profile. This puts Scotland just ahead of the UK average of 76.1 per cent.Scotland's performance in REF 2014 exceeds that achieved in the last UK-wide research assessment exercise conducted in 2008. Scotland's overall profile figure for 4* and 3* research in 2008 was 52 per cent.Scotland performs more highly than the UK average when assessed on the impact of its research; a new measures for REF 2014. 85.8 per cent of Scottish research was judged to be at 4* and 3* - levels which means the research has had "outstanding" or "very considerable" impact (compared to the UK average of 83.9 per cent). Demonstrating its strengths across all disciplines, the Scottish sector has above the UK average proportion of 'world-leading' research in fields such as: chemistry, biological sciences, physics, history, art and design, agriculture, veterinary and food science music, drama, dance and the performing arts. Scotland was found to have the highest rating of 4* and 3* combined in the UK for the research environment measure. The assessment of environment includes the wider research team including researchers and post-doctoral students as well as facilities and infrastructure.Commenting on the results Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of the University of Dundee, said:"Scotland's higher education institutions have performed outstandingly well in the Research Excellence Framework. Every one of Scotland's higher education institutions undertakes research of world-leading quality with more than three-quarters of all of the research submitted by Scottish institutions judged to be world-leading and internationally excellent. "I am also delighted to see such a strong performance across the full breadth of subjects with Scotland demonstrating world-leading research in every unit of assessment. This is testament to Scotland's highly diverse higher education sector."The new measure of the impact of university research will be of particular interest to politicians and the public as this has assessed what wider economic, social or cultural contribution university research has. I couldn't be any prouder that Scotland universities have been shown to excel in the impact of their research with over 85 per cent being found to have had either outstanding or very considerable impact, a performance which is significantly better than the average across the UK." Today (Thursday 18 December) sees the publication of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results for all 154 higher education institutions across the UK.Key findings for Scotland:Every one of Scotland's 18* higher education institutions undertakes research judged to be of "world-leading" quality. The higher education sector in Scotland submitted research to all 36 units of assessment (broad subject groupings) and was judged to undertake research of "world leading" quality in all 36 units of assessment.Overall, 77 per cent of Scottish research submitted to the REF2014 was judged to be "world-leading" or internationally excellent (4* and 3* combined) on the overall profile. This puts Scotland just ahead of the UK average of 76.1 per cent.Scotland's performance in REF 2014 exceeds that achieved in the last UK-wide research assessment exercise conducted in 2008. Scotland's overall profile figure for 4* and 3* research in 2008 was 52 per cent.Scotland performs more highly than the UK average when assessed on the impact of its research; a new measures for REF 2014. 85.8 per cent of Scottish research was judged to be at 4* and 3* - levels which means the research has had "outstanding" or "very considerable" impact (compared to the UK average of 83.9 per cent). Demonstrating its strengths across all disciplines, the Scottish sector has above the UK average proportion of 'world-leading' research in fields such as: chemistry, biological sciences, physics, history, art and design, agriculture, veterinary and food science music, drama, dance and the performing arts. Scotland was found to have the highest rating of 4* and 3* combined in the UK for the research environment measure. The assessment of environment includes the wider research team including researchers and post-doctoral students as well as facilities and infrastructure.The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is an assessment of the quality and impact of the research that UK universities undertake. The REF itself is a huge undertaking and is carried out roughly every six-to-seven years. The last assessment was published in December 2008.The REF results provide important reputational yardsticks and benchmarking information about the research performance of every one of the UK's higher education institutions. It also provides accountability for public investment in research and demonstrates the benefits of that investment.Commenting on the results Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of the University of Dundee, said:"Scotland's higher education institutions have performed outstandingly well in the Research Excellence Framework. Every one of Scotland's higher education institutions undertakes research of world-leading quality with more than three-quarters of all of the research submitted by Scottish institutions judged to be world-leading and internationally excellent. "I am also delighted to see such a strong performance across the full breadth of subjects with Scotland demonstrating world-leading research in every unit of assessment. This is testament to Scotland's highly diverse higher education sector."The new measure of the impact of university research will be of particular interest to politicians and the public as this has assessed what wider economic, social or cultural contribution university research has. I couldn't be any prouder that Scotland universities have been shown to excel in the impact of their research with over 85 per cent being found to have had either outstanding or very considerable impact, a performance which is significantly better than the average across the UK."The overall profile produced through the REF is based on an assessment of three different factors which all contribute a different weighting to the final result: an assessment of the quality of research outputs is the largest component of the score, accounting for 65 per centthe new impact measure counts for 20 per cent of the scorean assessment of the environment in which research is carried out accounting for the remaining 15 per cent (see notes).ImpactThe impact measure is new to REF2014. It makes an assessment of the impact it has outside of the university on the economy, society, culture, on health or public policy or the environment. Over 45 per cent of Scotland's research submitted to the REF 2014 was found to be 4*, of "outstanding impact", with a total of 85.8 per cent judged to be "outstanding" or "very considerable" impact (4* + 3*). This performance exceeds the UK average of 83.9 per cent. A total of 6,350 research active staff in Scotland were submitted to the REF2014 with a total of 22,891 outputs between them. Both figures represent a 12 per cent share of all staff and all outputs made across the UK. NOTESSubmissions to the REF2014 are graded on a five point scale, ascending from "U" for unclassified to 4*. The definitions for each point on the scale are as follows:4* - Quality that is world-leading3* - Quality that is internationally excellent2* - Quality that is recognised internationally1* - Quality that is recognised nationallyU - Quality below the standard of nationally recognised or work that is not eligible for the REFOnly work judged to be 3* and 4*, that is internationally excellent and world-leading, is currently funded by the Scottish Funding Council.All of the case studies submitted by higher education institutions to be assessed for impact will be published in January 2015. REF expects there to be a fully searchable database of impact case studies available from the spring of 2015.Scotland has 19 higher education institutions including the Open University in Scotland. The Open University in Scotland receives its research funding through HEFCE and is therefore not listed separately in the REF results for Scottish HEIs.Universities Scotland would like to thank Michael Rayner, Dean of Research at the University of the Highlands and Islands and Chair of the REF Managers Group Scotland for his help in preparing for REF 2014. 
Categories: Universities

AMOSSHE on Twitter