New country, same issues?

I am sure that as I get more and more familiar with Scotland I will gain new insights into higher education from a Scottish perspective. For those who don’t know much about the scene in Scotland, one interesting place to start might be to look at New Horizons, the report of the group with the rather clunky title Joint Future Thinking Taskforce on Universities. In essence this lays out the agenda that has been considered, but never properly articulated, in Ireland: how to align higher education strategy with national needs.

There are clearly a number of similarities between Scotland and Ireland as regards higher education, though also some differences. For example, the capacity of Scotland to create a major research fund along the lines of SFI may be limited. But then again, Scotland has resourced teaching more generously than Ireland. Still, what both countries face is a crisis in public funding. And in both countries this is leading to funding cuts for universities, of substantial proportions.

And so in that setting, and I would suggest not surprisingly, tuition fees or student contributions are a live issue for debate right now in Scotland as much as in Ireland. Scotland has quite deliberately not followed the English example of introducing top-up fees, but as the level of English tuition fees has continued to go up this has created a funding gap between the two jurisdictions. What is interesting is that the impact of this has now become a matter of concern to student representatives, and this has led to NUS Scotland (the National Union of Students) to declare that it would consider plans for a student contribution. This, as we have noted in this blog, is in line with at least some anecdotal evidence that some Irish students would countenance tuition fees in order to secure educational quality.

In this context at least, the same debate (or a very similar one) will accompany me as I move from Ireland to Scotland next year.

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5 Comments on “New country, same issues?”

  1. Iainmacl Says:

    Note though that the nus in Scotland is aligned closely with the labour party and is not representative of broader student opinion. It will support whatever labour is pushing. The current government abolished the graduate endowment that labour and the lib deem coalition had brought in. As for the issues and debate, I think you’ll find the current education minister open to suggestions and articulate. Indeed he is working on a green paper for the end of the year which will identify a number of possible options to be considered for future funding of HE. The reason through, why there will be cuts in the budget is because Scotland does not have fiscal autonomy and it’s government does not get tax revenues generated within the country. If it did, it would be significantly wealthier , particularly with oil revenues. however it is funded on the basis of a grant from Westminster calculated by a formula that essentially means although they can spend the money as they wish, the total amount is a proportion of that allocated to each service in England by the Westminster government. So if they cut education budget in England then that factor is cut in Scotland. The price of being in the UK, though even those who are shy of full independence support the idea of fiscal autonomy and not this lumbering , colonial nonsense. as you can tell, I have no particular opinion on the matter. 😉

  2. Iainmacl Says:

    Sorry about typos there. Using small keyboard and really annoying predictive text sysm whore knowledge of Both grammar and my true intentions is shockingly poor.

  3. Iainmacl Says:

    Oh god! See what I mean? Please remove the totally wrong word that appeared there instead of ‘whose’!


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