College chiefs put future of higher education under the microscope

SCOTLAND'S college principals have commissioned an independent review on the future of higher education.

The Commission on Higher Education will look into funding, widening access to higher education and the needs of the economy. Chaired by former first minister Henry McLeish, the commission has been set up by Scotland's Colleges, the group which represents principals.

It follows calls for an independent review from within the sector and from Scotland's three main opposition parties.

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The Scottish Government had previously set up the Joint Future Thinking Taskforce on Universities in 2007 to look at the higher education sector and, in November 2010, Education Secretary Michael Russell published a Green Paper on the subject, which is out for consultation.

A government spokesman said: "Colleges operate independently of government. It is for them to consider the best way in which they might offer views to ministers on matters relevant to their activities.

"We accept that Scotland's Colleges will want to consider, through the group which Mr McLeish will chair, the delivery within colleges of HE-level courses. Scotland's Colleges are aware that we have asked for all responses to the Green Paper to be submitted by 25 February."

It is hoped the commission will look at funding disparities between the university and college sector, given concerns colleges are funded at a lower rate.