Review of the governance of higher education in Scotland: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for answers to the following:
1. What was the result of that consultation regarding the election of chairs of universities – in essence who supported or opposed mandatory elections, and why?
2. Did the Government also consult on the method of election of the chairs? If so, what was the result of that consultation? If not, why not?
3. The Government legislated on the election of chairs stipulating inter alia that each must be elected on a simple, non-proportional, “first past the post” basis. Why did the Government favour this system? Why did it not give the option of an Alternative Vote (as recommended generally for single post elections by the Electoral Reform Society)


A review of the governance of higher education in Scotland was undertaken by a panel of stakeholders on behalf of the Scottish Government and chaired by Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal of Robert Gordon University. Scottish Ministers proposed legislation to take forward further elements of the review recommendations and issued a consultation on 7 November 2014 to seek wider views on proposals for inclusion in a higher education governance bill. Views on the proposals were sought by 30 January 2015 and informed the provisions for inclusion in a Higher Education Governance Bill. 125 responses to the consultation were received, just over half (53%) from individuals, many of whom indicated that they were from a higher education institution (HEI). One quarter (25%) of responses were submitted by universities and university representative bodies. The remaining responses were from other organisations such as unions, student representative bodies, business and industry bodies and local authorities.

Analysis of written responses to the consultation on a Higher Education Governance bill can be found here: Sections covering the election of chairs, or senior lay members, can be found on p.3 of Chapter 1 ('Executive Summary', and p.24-31 of Chapter 6 ('Chairing of Governing Bodies') of this document.

All the material relevant to the passage of the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill, including consultation submissions regarding the election process for senior lay members (or ‘chairs’) to the governing body of Scottish higher education institutions, can be found here:

According to section 33 of the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill Policy Memorandum (p.43 of "Careful consideration was given to all consultation responses, particularly the clear difference in stakeholder opinion. As a result it is not proposed that the Bill will feature specific detailed provisions at introduction. Instead, the detail will be set out in eventual regulations made under section 1 of the Bill, following further discussion on co-design with key stakeholders (in accordance with section 3 of the Bill which requires consultation with HEIs and other appropriate persons), and agreement by the Scottish Parliament."

However the Scottish Government subsequently considered making amendments to allow for provision on the face of the Bill ―for a single model for the appointment of elected chairs. As stated in her letter to the Education and Skills Committee of 22 September 2015 (p.153), Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, wrote: “The Bill simply aims to introduce a consistent process for the appointment of a chair. Influenced by dialogue with stakeholders, we plan to consider an amendment at Stage 2 that would replace Section 1 of the Bill with provision on the face of the Bill, rather than in regulations, for a single model for the appointment of elected chairs. If such a Stage 2 amendment was not lodged, setting out the exact steps for appointment of a chair would be done following dialogue with stakeholders, in accordance with the requirements of Section 3. However, if set out on the face of the Bill via Stage 2 amendments, the principle features of a process of appointment might involve open advertisement; fair and transparent consideration of all candidates based on ability to perform the role; assessment of all candidates demonstrating the skills and ability to carry out the role; and election by an inclusive, fair and balanced franchise from within the institution.”

The Scottish Government's position on a preferred election system is reflected in the comments of Angela Constance, at the time Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, on p.1199 of this document:

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