The search for a ‘Scottish solution’

Yesterday the Scottish government published a Green paper entitled Building a Smarter Future: Towards a Sustainable Scottish Solution for the Future of Higher Education. At its core is the view that the current development of higher education policy in England need not be a model for Scotland, and that in particular Scotland can continue to provide access to universities without fees (for Scottish students only, however).

In his Foreword, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Mike Russell, summarises the position as follows:

‘We are confident that public opinion in Scotland remains strongly in favour of ensuring that the prime responsibility for funding education at all levels remains with the state. Indeed the higher education sector in Scotland has confirmed its view that this Scottish tradition is of value and should be preserved. Consequently, our clear guiding principle in seeking long term stability for Scottish higher education – the so called “Scottish Solution” – will be the retention of public funding at the maximum sustainable level whilst also seeking new sources of revenue and enhancing existing ones and of course striving to get best value for every public pound and penny spent in and by the sector.’

The government’s plan is to gather all the information and data needed, through a working group to be established with Universities Scotland, so that the political parties can set out a higher education policy in the campaign for the Scottish elections in May. At the core of a successful policy, the Secretary suggests, will be a funding plan that will ensure that Scottish universities will not receive less funding than their English counterparts, who will now have the proceeds of the new and higher fees. It is not immediately easy to see how this can be achieved, but it is good that the government recognises the importance of equivalence of funding. The possibility of student contributions is not dismissed outright, but the risk is that students from outside Scotland become the main drivers of income, thereby potentially unbalancing the composition and attitude of the student population.

The debate in Scotland over coming months is bound to be interesting.

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8 Comments on “The search for a ‘Scottish solution’”

  1. Iainmacl Says:

    Sadly it says it all about the British media that almost their entire focus was in the perceived ‘unfairness’ of English students potentially having to pay fees to attend Scottish universities, despite the fact that this is already the case and that the current changes have arisen as a consequence of decisions made by Westminster. The real challenge of the Scottish situation is that it shows that there is indeed an alternative to fees and that it is a question of priorities,

    As you have no doubt gleaned, in Scotland there is a deep philosophical attachment to the idea of free education and an albeit romanticised notion of the idea of access and opportunity for all. Enjoy the discussions.

    • anna notaro Says:

      I would agree with the ‘deep philosophical’ attachment to the idea of free education in Scotland, hence I would not underestimate its potential to bring about a truly ‘Scottish solution’, sometime after the May elections though. As far as the potential treatment of English students in Scotland (which could end up paying 3 times what Scottish and other european students pay) really inequitable..

      • Than Says:

        Anna may I add that English students are on the edge because Welsh students will also have some kind of “help” since they will not pay the full 6-9000 amount…

          • Vincent Says:

            This is what I trying to find out. In Scotland huge areas are under the Highlands and Islands Acts while others are defined disadvantage. This is true in Wales also. So one way or another how many would have subvention in percentage terms and how many would pay full fees.
            I strongly suspect that it’s cheaper and far simpler to pay for all than try the hellish process of picking out the few that would pay the full amount.

  2. Fred Says:

    At a first glance there are some progressive thoughts. No fees for Scottish students is in my opinion a good policy. However, there are some traps. There are already some articles in newspapers saying that Scottish Unis prefer non-Scottish students in order to have some fees.

    Anyway, before any fee-related discussion it will be better to ensure that there will not be dramatic cuts for any faculty -as happened in England.

  3. Vincent Says:

    Has Scotland got representation here, independent of Whitehall. I asked Gnóthaí Eachtracha but they are a bit up themselves and didn’t answer.

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