We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

Our aims

Why are we reforming post-16 education?

The Scottish Government wants to improve life chances for young people, support economic growth and increase the number of jobs. We want to do this in an efficient way that meets the needs of learners and businesses.  Reforming our post-16 education  system will help us to do this.

We already have an excellent education system in Scotland. We must build on this strong foundation so that more people are able to access the right learning for them, increasing their qualifications and leading them into work.   

The recent consultation Putting Learners at the Centre asked for your views on our proposals for reform. We’ve analysed the responses and announced how we will be taking the reform process forward in a Parliamentary Statement on 29 February 2012. Strong progress has been made since then, and Education Secretary Michael Russell confirmed a number of developments in a Parliamentary Statement on 28 June 2012.

What are the next steps?

Opportunities for All

One of the first steps we’ve taken is to ensure all young people have access to learning opportunities, whatever their circumstances. Opportunities for All is an explicit commitment to a place in education or training for all 16-19 year olds.

To support this, we need to ensure appropriate and cost-effective structures are in place, and that money is being invested where it’s needed most.


In terms of colleges, we believe a regional approach will make the sector more efficient and responsive to the needs of students and local economies. Following extensive consultation, twelve newly-created regions were announced on 1 February 2012, with a thirteenth region - West Lothian - added in March. We are now working with the college sector and the Scottish Funding Council to put these arrangements into practice, whilst ensuring the quality of provision is upheld.


For universities, our aim is to encourage greater collaboration between institutions, building on Scotland’s excellent research base and harnessing the intellectual power of our universities for business. Funding will be concentrated on world-leading and internationally excellent research, enhancing Scotland’s reputation and making it the most attractive place to do business.


In February, independent reviews of both college and university governance were published. Their aim was to find out whether educational institutions are being run with appropriate levels of democratic accountability, transparency and effectiveness.

We are now working with universities and colleges to consider the best way to take the recommendations in these reports forward.

Student support

Parents and students in Scotland have long benefited from the certainty that access to higher education will be based on ability to learn, not the ability to pay. The Scottish Government currently invests over £2.5 billion a year in post-16 education and student support.

We will continue to stand by our commitment to protect places and opportunities for Scottish students. As part of the reform process we are working to simplify the student support system to make it easier to understand for students and their families. We have also committed to work with the Student Awards Agency for Scotland to deliver a £7,000 minimum income for the most vulnerable students in higher education.

Alongside this we will consider the support available to students on non-advanced courses considering how these systems may be made simpler and more coherent.

Learner journeys

‘Putting the learner at the centre’ is at the heart of all our reforms. We want all learners to be better educated, more skilled and more successful. This means flexible systems need to be in place to ensure learners can follow a path that suits their needs, with smooth transitions from school, that build on Curriculum for Excellence, and then between institutions, qualifications, and from education and training into the workplace.

As part of this, we are developing improved, more easily accessible careers guidance, through My World of Work, for example. We also recognise the important role played by Community Learning and Development (CLD) in improving life chances and providing a first step towards, onto and along the road to employment. Working in partnership with local authorities, the third sector and others we have developed new strategic guidance for CLD, which was published in June 2012.


By equipping our workforce with the skills, knowledge and training they need to make a success of the job opportunities on offer, we can maximise the contribution of post-16 education to Scotland’s economic recovery. Launching a new Youth Employability Strategy on 1 February 2012, Minister for Youth Employment Angela Constance confirmed that £8.5 million will be invested in projects to support young people into work. We will be working with the Skills Development Agency and other partners to identify the most appropriate ways to engage with young people and to encourage them back into learning or training.

The Scottish Government is also working closely with employers to ensure their needs are understood, strengthening links between businesses and educational institutions, and aligning employment opportunities and skills.

How can I find out more?

There is no doubt that this is an ambitious and far-reaching programme, and there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that we achieve our aims.  Much of this reform is being progressed without the need for legislation.  But in order to be implemented effectively, there are some elements that will require new legislation, which is currently in development. 

More detail on each of the areas of the reform work is available here and you can also follow the latest developments in the ‘latest news’ section. Have your say on the reform process, read case studies and follow our progress on Engage for Education.

If you have any questions you can email the post-16 reform team at post16reform@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.