Governing universities

Last summer the Scottish government commissioned me to chair a review of higher education governance in Scotland. Having invited and received submissions from the public, and having taken evidence from a number of people and organisations, we submitted our report, with its list of  33 recommendations, to the Scottish government last month.

Today the report was presented to the Scottish Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP. In his speech he expressed strong support for the recommendations contained in it. Many of these recommendations are likely to be accepted by those affected, but a small number may be seen as rather radical and controversial, including the recommendation that the chairs of governing bodies should be elected. There will be further consultation on these.

But perhaps the most important aspect of our report, at least in my view, is the contrast between the model of higher education that we put forward and that which has come into being south of the border. We recommend that higher education should be seen as something deserving sustained public interest, requiring accountability and public confidence in order to succeed. We believe that Scottish universities are, and should remain, highly successful, but also that they should be part of an academic culture of critical intellectual curiosity. The detailed recommendations in our report are designed to express that culture.

Explore posts in the same categories: higher education, university

Tags: , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

10 Comments on “Governing universities”

  1. Vincent Says:

    I think you’ve an ‘O’ rather that a ‘P’ at a strategic point. If not there is a good chunk deleted.

    I’m not sure how a central government would react to an elected board. For while I believe if would work exceptionally well for the community giving it a profound shareholding I would foresee conflict.

  2. ROGER MULLIN Says:

    I unreservedly welcome such an elegantly argued and far sighted report.

    For my part, I offer my sincere thanks.

  3. Al Says:

    Good work
    Very well written.

  4. Anna Notaro Says:

    Yes, it is easy to understand how one of the key aspects to emerge from the review is the distinctiveness of the Scottish model of higher education as opposed to the one south of the border. Such distinctiveness is elucidated in the introduction which, among others, refers to Davie’s concept of ‘democratic intellect’, and perhaps more cogently, to American historian Sheldon Rothblatt’s discussion of the liberal democratic principle of merit determination. (p.7) Universities, and education in general, have always played a crucial role at times of state-nation building, the fact that this timely document is released when the debate about Scottish independence is gaining momentum proudly reaffirms such an important function. One of the highlights, to my mind, is the recommendation that 40% of Court members should be women, that is a welcome step in the right direction towards gender equality in academia, hopefully further steps will follow..


  5. From an English perspective, I’m not sure I recognise the ‘contrast between the model of higher education that we put forward and that which has come into being south of the border.’ In both models (and also in Wales) the trend is to greater control of the institutions by the state, increased regulation and more central planning/political control. I am sure that Mr Willetts would endorse the view that English universities ‘are, and should remain, highly successful, but also that they should be part of an academic culture of critical intellectual curiosity.’

    If you told us that you were deploying the traditions of Scottish HE to manage these transitions in a more orderly and consensual way than we have achieved in the south, I might be persuaded.

    On a completely different issue, some of the English institutions have a definition of ‘academic freedom’ in their articles of government that makes no reference to particular groups of staff. Your existing definition of ‘relevant persons’ will be increasingly difficult to interpret as roles in HEIs continue to change so perhaps this would have been one English practice worth endorsing.

  6. Eddie Says:

    Largely ignored in the South!!


  7. […] has been produced by a Committee chaired by the Principal of Robert Gordon University (who has also blogged on this topic). It is a bold report which seems intended to reinforce the differences with England and to require […]

  8. video ızle Says:

    If you told us that you were deploying the traditions of Scottish HE to manage these transitions in a more orderly and consensual way than we have achieved in the south, I might be persuaded.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: