The Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee has, by majority, supported the general principles of the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill but has some concerns about the proposed legislation.
The Bill seeks to reform the governance of the further and higher education sectors, and to widen access to Scottish universities. In its report, the Committee supported the direction of policy but highlighted various areas where the Scottish Government and others should provide further information or clarification.
Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell MSP said:
"There is general agreement about the need to reform Scotland’s further and higher education sectors to ensure that they improve the life chances of young people. However, after hearing evidence we are clear that the Scottish Government must provide clarity on some aspects of the Bill, particularly in relation to college regionalisation.
“We have also asked the Scottish Government for further information on how the new college structures will work in practice and to explain the underlying principles behind its planned reform of college boards.
“Measures to widen access to Scottish universities are also covered in the Bill. We welcome the principle of widening access and have asked what the consequences would be for any university that failed to fulfil a widening access agreement. We have also requested regular updates on universities’ efforts to widen access, as this is an area where the Scottish Government is seeking considerable improvement.”
Other recommendations in the report:
Higher Education Governance
The Committee asked for—
- clarification of how the legislation and a new code of university governance will avoid straying into inappropriate areas of university management
- the Scottish Government’s view on whether the Bill should be amended given universities’ concerns about their autonomy possibly being compromised by the Bill.
- The Committee has asked the Scottish Government how the possible risk of universities adopting weak widening access targets can be avoided.
- The Committee requested a detailed explanation from Skills Development Scotland of how it will pro-actively support young people who may be at risk of disengaging with learning or training.
The Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill provides legislative underpinning for various proposed changes to post-16 education in Scotland.
College reorganisation is the most substantial part of the Bill and will result in single college regions and multi-college regions. Regional strategic bodies will be created for multi-college regions, and will distribute funding and plan provision across the region.
There are six main provisions, covering the following areas—
• University governance
• Widening access
• Tuition fees cap
• College regionalisation
• Review of fundable further and higher education
• Data sharing
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