Scottish Universities shake-up ‘too rushed’

UNIVERSITY principals have raised concerns over the way a far-reaching shake-up of higher education has been handled by the body which provides money to the sector.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is in the process of drafting “outcome agreements” specific to each individual institutional which will require universities to maintain key courses and widen access.

But Universities Scotland, which represents the country’s 18 principals, said the process, which is being done at the request of the Scottish Government, had been rushed and poorly managed, while individual institutions are understood to have been unhappy about being seen as regional, rather than national or international in their outlook.

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Universities were handed an increased budget of £1.016 billion for 2012-13 by the SFC in a bid to close a funding gap which had opened up between Scottish institutions and those south of the Border.

However, Mark Batho, the SFC’s chief executive, made clear the better-than-expected funding package was part of a “something for something” deal, which would require universities to give firm commitments to widen access and improve employability.

The SFC is expected to begin publishing individual outcome agreements for each of Scotland’s universities within the next few weeks, after holding talks with principals.

However, the organisation has said it will “learn lessons” from the way the process was handled after concerns were raised by Universities Scotland.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: “We are committed as a sector to demonstrating how public investment in universities is contributing to a prosperous and inclusive Scotland and we welcomed outcome agreements as means of doing so from the outset.”