UNIONS have urged MSPs to pass legislation aimed at improving the governance of Scotland’s universities.
The Higher Education Governance Bill sets out that universities should have elected chairs, modernised governing bodies and academic boards, and an enhanced definition of academic freedom.
MSPs will vote on the legislation at Holyrood.
Unison, which represents professional and support staff in universities, welcomed measures to give unions a seat on university courts, stating the move will “improve participation in decision-making and ultimately improve the lives of students in Scotland”.
The National Union of Students in Scotland said the legislation presented “a much-needed opportunity to addresses the current failings in the democracy, transparency and accountability of how our universities are run”.
Others within the sector have expressed fears the Bill could harm the autonomy of universities and threaten their charitable status.
Education Secretary Angela Constance brought forward a raft of changes to the legislation to address these concerns.
Emma Phillips, Unison’s head of higher education, said: “The bill will ensure that Scottish higher education institutions are more inclusive and will enable our members’ voices to be heard on campus.
“Unison members are key frontline staff and integral to providing the excellent student experience that Scottish institutions all aim to deliver.
“The fact that they will now play a part in running our universities will improve services for students.”
Emily Beever, NUS Scotland women’s officer, said: “While we strongly support the Bill as it stands, it’s encouraging to see MSPs bring a number of amendments which will further strengthen the Bill and we would hope to see MSPs get behind those to ensure staff and students are fully represented at the highest levels of decision making, underpinned by improved transparency and diversity of that decision making.”
She added: “We need to see university governing bodies reflecting the communities they represent, with students and staff given more of a say in how their universities are run, and who’s running them.”