Wider access ‘may not be possible’ for universities

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THE goal of widening access to Scotland’s universities may be incompatible with institutions remaining globally competitive, according to a new report.

The study by Scotland’s Futures Forum (SFF), a think-tank set up by the Scottish Parliament, suggests that by 2025 Scotland could be a “world-leading learning nation”.

But the report, which puts forward four hypothetical scenarios for how the education system could develop, suggests “learning for all” may not be compatible with universities and colleges keeping ahead of their international competitors.

Sir Andrew Cubie, director of the SFF, said: “It is the ambition of Scotland’s Futures Forum and of our 350-strong stakeholder community that by 2025 Scotland will be regarded as a world-leading learning nation.

“The very nature of this project emphasises the need to look to the long-term. The four scenarios are not designed to predict the future, nor do they represent policy proclamations, but they are by their nature provocative in order to stimulate a new debate.

“One of the key issues that arises from this work is whether ‘learning opportunities for all’ can be compatible with Scotland being a global leader in the field of university education. There is no easy answer, but it is vital that we start the debate now.”

Graham Donaldson, honorary professor at Glasgow University’s school of education, added: “There is no doubt that the four scenarios identified in this report are challenging and will provoke reaction. But this substantial piece of work is about influencing how policymakers, educators and employers approach the long-term positioning of skills and learning in Scotland.

“Scotland’s Futures Forum is not trying to predict the future, nor is it advancing one scenario over another. It is posing the difficult questions so that we address the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”