Reforming Scottish post-16 education

Yesterday the Scottish government launched a pre-legislative paper on post-16 education, including skills training, further education and higher education. The document, Putting Learners at the Centre: Delivering our Ambitions for post-16 Education, looks at a number of strategic and operational aspects of education, asks some questions and suggests some conclusions.

One thing that emerges from the paper is that the Scottish government is intending to legislate in 2012 to secure educational reform. The following are the issues the government believes will require legislation (in addition to others that may or may not require legal reforms).

• a new duty on widening access to higher education;

• a new duty on Scottish Ministers and the SFC periodically to review
the number and pattern of fundable bodies (that is, colleges and
universities); and new Ministerial powers requiring governing
bodies of fundable bodies to work with the SFC to respond to any
recommendations made by the Council;

• a cap on the fees institutions can charge to students from elsewhere in the UK.

The paper sets out ambitious and innovative plans for education reform, and there are many issues emerging that are of direct interest to universities. I shall be looking at some of these over the coming days.  But running through the proposals is a concern about the responsiveness of colleges and universities to certain national needs. On the other hand, the government does acknowledge the impact and importance of university autonomy.

The paper asks a number of questions about education at these levels, and invites comments and representations. It is to be hoped that this invitation is followed up.

Explore posts in the same categories: education, higher education

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2 Comments on “Reforming Scottish post-16 education”

  1. anna notaro Says:

    Indeed this is an ambitious document and I really wish that most people working in Scottish universities have the chance to read it and possibly contribute to the consultation process. The document very eloquently reiterates what is the ‘Scottish’ character of higher education, defined as ‘ hard-wired into Scotland’s DNA’ , ‘a civilising force…always be based on the ability to learn and never on the ability to pay’…at the same time it is interesting to note the apparently contradictory aspirations that it entails, i.e. the efficient use of public funds which demands more control on the part of the government (‘We therefore intend to supplement Scottish Ministers’ current powers on mergers’ curiously this aspect does not seem part of the Consultation questions listed on p.50) and academic freedom also defined as a key value (p.57). it is also noteworthy that the word ‘competition’ only recurs twice in the whole document, an interestisting fact if compared to similar documents on education policies produced South of the border. Also refreshing is the attention put on foreign language (and culture) learning (p.48). More attention should have been devoted to the use of digital technologies for learning, there is a whole area of expertise in this area which goes well beyond the usual distance learning one!

    Finally, in response to the Consultation Question: How can we maximise the contribution of Community Learning & Development to widening access? What examples of good practice can we build on? (p.30)

    It might be useful to consider a piece of research published early in 2010 by Cisco, ‘Learning from the Extemes’ which examined how social entrepreneurs around the world are devising new approaches to learning in extreme social circumstances. The radically innovative approaches they develop challenge conventional wisdom about schooling and provide new insights into how the developed world should reform its education system. Executive summary & full text available at

  2. Al Says:

    Interesting document.
    But I would question this infatuation with putting the learner at the center of whatever.
    Can be code for many different things???

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