Post-school education, research and skills: interim purpose and principles

A draft framework for building an excellent post-school education, research and skills ecosystem for further discussion and feedback.

Topics for further engagement

The interim Purpose and Principles describe what we want to see within our reformed post-school education, skills and research ecosystem. They will act as a decision making framework to ensure that policy choices made are aligned to the principles. There are choices about how these principles are achieved and how they support the range of pathways to enable people to fulfil their potential.

Through our early engagement, multiple options for how the principles might be delivered in practice emerged. These were a combination of good practice and areas where it would be possible to go further to fully meet the spirit of the principle. These are framed for discussion below and will be our focus during the next period of engagement so that by the time the final Purpose and Principles is published, there will be a clear statement of intent about what living up to each principle will mean.

The topics below are the focus of a discussion guide to support engagement on the development of the final Purpose and Principles prior to publication in spring 2023. This will also support the development of system level outcomes and metrics to help drive implementation.

Principle 1: High quality - high quality opportunities are available for people to enhance their knowledge and skills at the time and place that is right for them

This principle is about when, where and how opportunities are made available.

In building a pathway for successful user journeys, the following topics have emerged as areas for further consideration:

Delivery methods

This includes digital, blended and in person learning, and part time, full time and micro credentials. What is the right balance and what do we prioritise?

Fair Work and continuous professional development

Within and across the ecosystem, how best can this be supported?


What more can be done to smooth transitions between and across parts of the system to ease navigation and enhance recognition of prior learning and experience? What are the options for integrated degree models? To what extent is articulation needed?

Outcomes from learning

How can we measure and ensure that people’s experience of learning in all environments equips them for productive work? How can we build our knowledge and understanding of the benefits and outcomes from different learner pathways?

Principle 2: Supportive and equitable - people are supported throughout their learning journey, targeting those who need it most

This principle is about how, when, to whom and by whom support is provided.

In building a pathway for successful user journeys, the following topics have emerged as areas for further consideration:

Widening access

What we mean by widening access, how we measure its impact, how we invest in it and how we tackle it. For example, only university or wider?

Student support

Learning, information, guidance and pastoral support – what, where, when, why and by whom are different types of support provided?

Equity of opportunity

Who should pay, for what, at what time, and in what set of specific circumstances? How do we ensure that the ecosystem is diverse and inclusive?

Principle 3: Globally respected - research, teaching, innovation and knowledge exchange undertaken in Scotland must make a difference; enhance and contribute to global wellbeing, addressing 21st centry challenges and attracing inward investment and talen to study, live and work in Scotland

This principle is about the contribution that research in Scotland makes to the world and the role it plays in supporting Scotland’s global standing, teaching excellence, prosperity and connectedness.

In building a pathway for successful user journeys, the following topics have emerged as areas for further consideration:

Funding for research

Recognising the breadth of UK and other funding that supports research taking place across Scotland and the value of the full spectrum of research activity from fundamental to applied research. what is the right balance for Scottish Government funding between discovery and mission oriented research?

Given the challenging financial context, how sustainable is a funding approach based on supporting research excellence wherever it is found?

Leveraging further funding - how can we best leverage public investment in research, innovation and knowledge exchange to crowd-in other forms of investment at all stages of research?  

Opportunities for international education partnerships and exchange

Building on the existing extensive international connections and reputation of many of Scotland’s employers and further and higher education institutions, what are the best ways to further support leveraging international connections and networks to maximise benefits for Scotland?


How can the Scottish Government best mitigate the impacts of the UKs withdrawal from the EU on the ability of our institutions to attract and retain research and teaching talent and EU students?

What is the right balance for future financial sustainability in mitigating the potential over reliance on particular markets for international students?

Principle 4: Agile and responsive - Everybody in the ecosystem collaborates and delivers in the best interests of Scotland’s wellbeing economy

This principle is about the ability of the system to respond to global and domestic drivers.

In building impactful research and pathways for successful user journeys, the following topics have emerged as areas for further consideration:

Sensitivity to local, regional, national and international requirements

How can the ecosystem be best supported to capitalise on their role as civic anchors as part of Scotland’s approach to community wealth building? How can  responsiveness to rural and island perspectives, different sectoral regional requirements and the changing nature of work, in particular the digital transformation and transition to net zero and the need for green skills be further developed?

Relationships between actors within the ecosystem

How can the leadership capacity be built at all levels to incentivise collaborative action to initiate, respond to and deliver in line with changing demands?

Upskilling and reskilling workforce

This will be ever more essential as part of the transition to net zero. How can this best be delivered and incentivised?  Who pays for what and when?

Recognition of the role of employers

How can employers best be supported and incentivised to develop apprenticeships, invest in in-work training and development of staff and to build relationships with, colleges, universities and community learning and development providers?

Principle 5: Transparent, resilient and trusted - the ecosystem is well governed, inclusive, financially and environmentally resilient and trusted to deliver.

The principle is about how the ecosystem is structured and ensuring that everyone understands what the system delivers, who is delivering and how that happens.

In building a pathway for successful user journeys, the following topics have emerged as areas for further consideration:

Funding models

To date these have been focused on inputs rather than impact. How can we move to a new model? Can our overall approach to funding be simplified and made more sustainable? How can monitoring and reporting be streamlined without compromising accountability and assurance? How do we design and deliver a model for funding that can flex to accommodate shifting demands?

Clear investment priorities and hierarchy

How can government and NDPBs best signal core investment priorities including tackling child poverty, delivering a prosperous wellbeing economy and delivering the transition to net zero? Should we have an investment hierarchy for post-school education, skills and research?

System level outcomes

What system level outcomes should we set to ensure transparency and alignment and to support the shift from input to impact whilst delivering accountability and assurance? How can we make the pathways simpler and more transparent for users and help them to make better informed choices about where they will lead?


What further progress can be made on user and staff representation on Boards? Is responsibility in the right place between government, NDPBs, institutions, employers and providers across the ecosystem?


Connected to governance, is the system currently trusted to deliver and are people empowered to act to deliver better outcomes?



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