Seats of learning

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YouR report (18 December) properly celebrates the success of Scottish universities’ research: eight in the top 50 UK universities; one fourth in the UK; four subjects in which the Scottish rating is the best in the UK; and every institution undertaking some research of world-leading quality.

This is a performance level of a very high order and deserves your accolades.

Yet, at the same time, government proposals are afoot to bring about major constitutional and governance changes in these same universities. Why?

Could it be that it is the old political fantasy that politicians know best and that meddling with proven constitutional structures is going to produce, in this case, better research?

These research evaluations bear out what other league tables, national and international, tell us, that the universities of Scotland and the rest of the UK contend at the top end of European and world ratings.

Interestingly, the universities of Europe, many of which have constitutions mirroring what the current governmental proposals recommend, are still in many cases struggling to compete with the successes of UK, North ­American and East Asian ­universities.

The long and the short of it is that there are many ways to organise and run successful universities.

These patterns of governance evolve and, in Scotland, it is clear that they are evolving well.

A single, centrally driven disruption is a distraction to the real business of universities – ­teaching and research.

May I suggest to the new ­secretary for education that it is time to pause, celebrate success and reflect on what has brought it about.

Stewart Sutherland

Berwickshire

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