A Framework for Higher Education in Scotland: Higher Education Review Phase 2
It is time for a new relationship with our higher education institutions - for the social, economic, cultural and civic benefit of our nation.
It is time to build on the better understanding which has already begun to develop since devolution.
This is a moment to celebrate the achievements of the staff and students in our universities and colleges. We recognise the value of academic freedom - the freedom that allows those in our institutions to be creative, to innovate, to choose their direction, to challenge. History shows that strong higher education sectors are those where people are given, and use, room to develop and change with a changing world, and to seize opportunities for advancing what can be achieved through teaching, scholarship and research. We want higher education to be an attractive place to work and study for those who prize the chance to experiment and explore.
In return, we think it is right to expect a contribution to the achievement of national priorities through the teaching, scholarship and research undertaken in higher education, recognising that Scottish society, through the Executive, is the sector's single largest funder. To achieve this we want our providers of higher education to work ever more closely together, taking advantage of Scotland's small scale - and recognising the challenges it sets. To stimulate and support this, we want SHEFC to play a new role, bringing institutions together to help shape the overall strategic framework and to foster coherent planning and delivery. I welcome the pioneering work on strategic dialogue with those in the sector which SHEFC has already begun. Harnessing the power of institutional self-determination for the greater good lies at the heart of our approach.
Among our national priorities is the strong desire that our higher education sector plays its full part within wider lifelong learning in Scotland. Strengthening the relationship between further and higher education is central to the Executive's Lifelong Learning Strategy, Life Through Learning; Learning Through Life, underpinned by the proposal in that Strategy to merge the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Councils. The single most important practical expression of that strengthening relationship will be the growth of more opportunities for learners to progress seamlessly through education, particularly through well-managed articulation from one level of course to another. Thanks to initiatives developed by staff themselves, Scotland already leads the UK in "2+2" and similar arrangements. The next challenge will be to embed such opportunities across higher education.
This report sets out how we believe the higher education sector in Scotland needs to develop over the next ten years - in teaching and learning, research and knowledge transfer, and governance and management. We cannot afford simply to stay as we are - we live in a world where past success is no guarantee of future achievement in any sphere. If Scotland is to reap the benefits of a vibrant, successful higher education sector in the years ahead, we have to be ready to change - ready to compete successfully for the most talented people in an increasingly competitive world, and ready to nurture and retain the talent we already have here in Scotland.
The priorities set out here are the product of more than a year of discussion, dialogue and consultation. This report builds on the organisational review of SHEFC already published as the first phase of this review. I am grateful to the many who gave time to assist this process, and especially to the members of our advisory panel, whose work has done much to shape our thinking. Inevitably, this report will be read in the light of the recently-published White Paper on higher education in England. That document now becomes part of the context for the implementation of the proposals here. But this report is not a reaction to the White Paper, and readers looking for a point by point response to it will be disappointed.
We will now work with the Funding Council, those who provide higher education and other interested parties to take forward the proposals set out here. This will include a third phase of this review process, which I have already announced, to look more fully at the long-term issues for Scottish higher education in the light of the proposed changes to the funding of higher education in England. We will take that forward in the same consultative way we have used for earlier stages, and in a way which firmly places this work within the implementation of the lifelong learning strategy for Scotland.
It is time for a new partnership with higher education, built on confidence and trust. Time to work together for Scotland.
Iain Gray, MSP
Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning