More clarity is needed on measures aimed at improving the governance of Scotland’s higher education institutions. This is the conclusion of a report issued today (17 December) by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee.
In welcoming the measures contained within the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill, the Committee noted that more information is needed on how these proposals would work in practice.
Committee Convener, Stewart Maxwell MSP, said:
“The Bill aims to improve governance in higher education institutions and we have set out the differing views we heard on the current quality of governance in the sector. The majority of the Committee supported the Scottish Government’s view that the Bill will strengthen higher education governance.
“We have called on the Scottish Government to provide more detailed information on a range of issues, so that all members can be as well informed as possible in advance of the parliamentary debate on the Bill. For example, it is essential that clarity be provided on the role of rector, a long-standing position within Scotland’s ancient universities.
“The Bill also proposes to introduce elections for governing body chairs and to include trade union members on governing bodies. We support measures that could potentially increase the number of candidates for the post of chair, and also agree that a diverse group of people should be included on the governing body.
“Our Committee also welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to amend or remove certain provisions in the Bill, which we consider will reassure those universities concerned about the possible reclassification of the sector.”
Other conclusions from the Committee’s report include:
Election of governing body chair:
- the Scottish Government should provide more detail on the process envisaged for the election of a governing body chair, including whether there will be a pre-selection of candidates before an election; if so, who will be responsible for conducting that process; and who exactly will form the electorate for the election of chair.
- the Scottish Government must ensure there is no ambiguity about the roles of elected chairs and elected rectors, and that both figures are able to work together for the good of the institution.
- the Scottish Government should set out the intended benefits it expects to derive from assuming a power on the remuneration of governing body chairs. It should also explain how it would intend to use the power.
According to the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill’s policy memorandum, the Bill was introduced to create a “framework of higher education governance that is more modern, inclusive and accountable.”
Two members of the Committee did not agree with the recommendation that the Bill’s general principles should be agreed to (para 130).