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

Tue, 02/03/2015 - 09:08
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 - 09:00
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 - 09:45
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 - 08:30
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

Universities Scotland responds to Scottish Government Cabinet reshuffle

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 15:18
Responding to the news of the Scottish Government Cabinet reshuffle which sees Angela Constance MSP replace Michael Russell in the role of Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland said: "We look forward to working with Angela Constance in the role of Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. Scotland's 19 higher education institutions are immensely proud to be rooted in Scotland and to serve Scotland in so many ways; making a significant social, cultural and economic contribution at a national level as well as helping to change individual lives. A great many opportunities lie ahead, as well as a few challenges, and we are very keen to work closely together with the Cabinet Secretary in meeting these, to deliver more for Scotland and to build on the international competitiveness of our institutions. "We thank Mr Russell for the strong support he has shown higher education in his time in the role as Cabinet Secretary. Whilst we may not have always agreed with one another, we appreciate the approach he took to working with us which was characterised by close engagement and discussion with the sector."  Responding to the news of the Scottish Government Cabinet reshuffle which sees Angela Constance MSP replace Michael Russell in the role of Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland said: "We look forward to working with Angela Constance in the role of Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. Scotland's 19 higher education institutions are immensely proud to be rooted in Scotland and to serve Scotland in so many ways; making a significant social, cultural and economic contribution at a national level as well as helping to change individual lives. A great many opportunities lie ahead, as well as a few challenges, and we are very keen to work closely together with the Cabinet Secretary in meeting these, to deliver more for Scotland and to build on the international competitiveness of our institutions.   "We thank Mr Russell for the strong support he has shown higher education in his time in the role as Cabinet Secretary. Whilst we may not have always agreed with one another, we appreciate the approach he took to working with us which was characterised by close engagement and discussion with the sector."  
Categories: Universities

Universities and business unite in call for Smith Commission to seize the opportunity to craft an immigration policy that meets Scotland's needs

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:03
Scotland's universities and business leaders have united together in calling upon the Smith Commission to seize the opportunity and ensure that partial devolution of immigration policy is included as an additional power for Scotland in the Heads of Agreement to be reached by the end of this month.The staff, students and principals at Scotland's universities have written an open letter to the Smith Commission with key business organisations, including the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors Scotland and specialist sector bodies, ScotlandIS, which represents Scotland's IT and digital technology sector, and Scottish Renewables. Partial devolution of immigration policy to Scotland would enable the Scottish Parliament to re-introduce a two-year post-study work entitlement for international students graduating from Scottish institutions. This would enable Scotland to attract and retain highly-skilled young people, making a significant positive contribution to Scotland's economy and demography. Scotland's universities and business leaders have united together in calling upon the Smith Commission to seize the opportunity and ensure that partial devolution of immigration policy is included as an additional power for Scotland in the Heads of Agreement to be reached by the end of this month.The staff, students and principals at Scotland's universities have written an open letter to the Smith Commission with key business organisations, including the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Institute of Directors Scotland and specialist sector bodies, ScotlandIS, which represents Scotland's IT and digital technology sector, and Scottish Renewables. Partial devolution of immigration policy to Scotland would enable the Scottish Parliament to re-introduce a two-year post-study work entitlement for international students graduating from Scottish institutions. This would enable Scotland to attract and retain highly-skilled young people, making a significant positive contribution to Scotland's economy and demography. Scotland faces specific demographic challenges that are quite distinct from the rest of the UK, with slower population growth and a population that is ageing at a faster rate. The number of people aged over 65 years is projected to rise by 59 per cent by 2037. As there is a close correlation between population growth of highly skilled people in the workforce and growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which puts Scotland at an economic disadvantage compared to the rest of the UK.The relatively greater economic and fiscal challenges faced by Scotland, as a consequence of its ageing population, were acknowledged by the Scottish Government, UK Government and Better Together parties during the referendum debate. The Smith Commission represents an opportunity to craft limited variations to the UK immigration policy that allow Scotland to address its specific demographic and economic needs. If included as a recommendation in the cross-party Heads of Agreement, to be reached by the end of November, this would give Lord Smith of Kelvin a strong mandate to negotiate this outcome for Scotland in talks that follow with the UK Government.Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of the University of Dundee said:"Scotland has already proved that it's possible to have a difference in immigration policy, bringing demographic and economic benefit to Scotland with no impact on the rest of the UK. Fresh Talent was a big success and we're looking to the Smith Commission, and to the UK Government, to give Scotland this opportunity again. "There is a wealth of evidence to support the need for partial devolution of immigration policy. Scotland has distinct demographic challenges that adversely affect our potential for economic growth. We face skills shortages in key sectors, as articulated by business, and our universities are forced to operate in an anti-competitive environment in attracting international talent that could be of great economic and social benefit to Scotland. "We have an opportunity to address this and in so doing, we have an opportunity to deliver a change in policy that is capable of significant economic and social benefit for Scotland. I call on all those involved in the Smith Commission to seize this opportunity." The re-introduction of a two-year post-study work route for international students would give Scotland's universities an equal footing in the attraction of international students and could reverse the recent double-digit drop universities have seen in student numbers as a result of perceptions of UK Government policy overseas and the lack of a post-study work route, which is offered by other English-language countries such as the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In recent years, the number of Indian students studying in Scotland has fallen by 49 per cent and there has been a 17 per cent drop in students from Nigeria.Scottish public opinion is supportive of such powers being devolved to Scotland; a 2014 survey by the Oxford University Migration Observatory found that 60 per cent of people believe the Scottish Government is best placed to make decisions about immigration policy in Scotland. Ross Martin, Chief Executive, SCDI said:"Greater powers to attract and retain high-talent from other countries would make a big difference to key economic tests for Scotland - developing a more highly skilled and productive workforce, creating more innovative businesses, and improving our global skills and connections to grow our exports."Major Scottish industries would soon benefit from this talent, the Scottish economy and society have distinct long-term needs and there is broad civic support for this move, and that is why we are jointly asking the Smith Commission to transfer these powers and enhance Scotland's ability to prosper."David Watt, Executive Director of the IoD in Scotland said:"There is little doubt that the current UK immigration policy is not fit for Scotland's future, as we face completely different demographic challenges to other parts of the UK. This is the ideal opportunity to address the challenges we face in terms of sustaining a pool of talent. Yes, radical thinking may be required - but it's vital that the outcome contributes to the long term availability of a talented, ambitious, creative and innovative workforce." Polly Purvis, Chief Executive of ScotlandIS said:"A relaxation in visa control for overseas postgraduate students studying in Scotland would have an immediate positive impact on the current critical skills shortage facing the digital technologies industry in Scotland."Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said:"International students, and immigrants more generally, contribute a huge amount to our institutions, communities and country. The Smith Commission process, by devolving the powers that we need on immigration, provides a great opportunity to recognise that contribution in a way that benefits international students, and Scotland as a whole. "International students bring new perspectives and new ways of learning that enriches the learning experience for them, for Scottish students, and for the institution and their communities as a whole. Allowing those same students the opportunity to stay in Scotland and work once they've graduated, to continue enriching Scottish society and the economy, makes sense for everyone involved. "The Fresh Talent initiative showed that international students have much more to contribute to Scotland, once they have graduated. Providing the powers to bring a similar scheme back, and give those students that opportunity once more, is something that staff, students and institutions are rightly united on." NotesThe following organisations are united in calling for the partial devolution of immigration policy to Scotland as part of the Smith Commission: >  Institute of Directors Scotland>  NUS Scotland>  Renewables Scotland>  ScotlandIS>  Scottish Chambers of Commerce>  Scottish Council for Development and Industry>  UCU Scotland>  UNISON>  Universities ScotlandThe number of Indian students studying in Scotland's universities has fallen by 49.4 per cent between 2010/11 and 2012/13. The number of Nigerian students has fallen by 17 per cent in the same time frame. The source for the data is the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).Many of the organisations signing up to the joint letter on this issue have made their own submissions to the Smith Commission. A common theme across the submissions is support for some devolution of immigration policy. Support for this should not be assumed to mean support for each other's submissions in full. The Smith Commission must reach its cross-party Heads of Agreement by 30 November in order to stay on schedule to publish of draft clauses by 25 January.
Categories: Universities

Universities Scotland: submission to the Scotland Devolution Commission (Smith Commission)

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 14:42
Universities Scotland believes there are specific opportunities to craft a new devolution settlement which will enable the university sector to make an even stronger contribution to a fairer and more prosperous Scotland within the United Kingdom. Read Universities Scotland's submission to the Smith Commission Universities Scotland believes there are specific opportunities to craft a new devolution settlement which will enable the university sector to make an even stronger contribution to a fairer and more prosperous Scotland within the United Kingdom. Read Universities Scotland's submission to the Smith Commission
Categories: Universities

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