Education bill

Scotland has good reason to be proud of its universities. They regularly punch above their weight in international league tables. Our highly successful higher education sector creates thousands of jobs and many companies, attracting students and staff of the very highest international calibre. Our universities deserve the congratulations of the Scottish Government.

Instead, the government has dropped a bombshell, a 
Higher Education Bill which threatens the autonomy of our universities.

The draft legislation, if enacted, will change the way all Scottish universities are governed. The government aims to make governance of our universities more modern, inclusive and 

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Universities, on the other hand, do not believe that the present legislation is necessary to achieve this.

Our universities have voluntarily adopted a large number of proposals from the Higher Education Code of Governance which was only published in December 2014 and is due to be revised next year.

Why, one wonders, has a new set of proposals appeared when the previous ones have not even been evaluated?

Amongst the proposals is that the bill will give ministers power to regulate how chairs will be appointed.

This raises the worrying 
prospect that ministers can assert unreasonable levels of influence over the selection process, especially since the powers they will have are not currently 
specified by the bill but due to be decided in a later consultation period.

The draft legislation gives wide powers for Scottish ministers to bring in further changes through secondary legislation, which means that the full process of parliamentary scrutiny would not be required and further threatens the autonomy of our universities.

Not surprisingly, our universities are deeply concerned at the impact of these new measures. Several of them have taken the unprecedented step of contacting their alumni and encouraging them to voice their opposition to this bill.

Perhaps some of our MSPs should go home and think 

Keddie Law

Lunan Avenue