Presentation on theme: "The Future of Higher Education in Scotland and the UK: Cross-border Issues and Relationships 14 th June 2013 Sheila Riddell Centre for Research in Education."— Presentation transcript:
The Future of Higher Education in Scotland and the UK: Cross-border Issues and Relationships 14 th June 2013 Sheila Riddell Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity, University of Edinburgh
Why focus on higher education? UK HE systems are strongly inter-connected and therefore provide insight into extent of policy divergence and convergence Within post-war settlement, equality of educational opportunity has formed the bedrock of social and political discourse Access to higher education particularly significant because of strong association with social mobility – and of great concern to general public UK higher education systems strongly inter-linked through shared services (e.g. research councils, research assessment, quality assurance, admissions). Connections with other policy areas e.g. migration, pensions, employment law etc.
Research Questions l Since devolution, what has been the extent of policy divergence and/or convergence in higher education between Scotland and the other countries of the UK and what are the implications of a vote for independence for Scottish higher education? l Does Scottish higher education reflect a distinctive vision of the purposes and mission of higher education? How might such distinctiveness be amplified following independence? l Using longitudinal administrative data, what trends can be identified in cross-border flows of students? How might cross- border flows be affected by independence?
Research methods & public engagement activities l Primary research: Analysis of policy documents, administrative data on cross-border student flows and key informant interviews l Public engagement: think tanks, working papers, press communication l Work with schools – interviews with pupils, production of short film and production of teaching materials
The future – four key issues : (1) Funding : l Shortly after coming to power in 1997, Labour Government introduced ‘up front’ tuition fees for students across UK – initially £1,000 with reductions or exemptions for poorer students l In 2005, UK Government introduced legislation enabling universities to charge up to £3,000 per annum, repayable after graduation (idea borrowed from Scotland). l Following Browne Review of 2010, England allowed universities to charge up to £9,000 per annum – highest fees in Europe, but repaid post-graduation. Relatively generous means-tested grants also introduced.
Scottish divergence l After establishment of Scottish Parliament in 1999, Lib Dems lobbied for abolition of up-front tuition fees – issue threatened to wreck coalition l Committee of inquiry chaired by Sir Andrew Cubie, Government decided that graduates should be liable to repay £2,000 when income reached £10,000. l Graduate endowment (not fee) could be added to student loan – referred to as ‘the Scottish solution’ l SNP campaigned on abolishing student debt & replacing loans with grants – in 2007, abolished graduate endowment l Free tuition presented as emblematic of collectivist approach to social policy in Scotland. ‘The rocks will melt in the sun…’
But instability in both jurisdictions l Concerns in England about viability of collecting student debt, impact of indebtedness on young people and recruitment of people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly part-time and mature students. l Labour has said it will reduce cap on fees to £6,000 if it wins next Westminster election – but will this be financially feasible? l Free tuition for students living in Scotland comes at a price – e.g. reduction in funding to colleges, little support for Scottish students studying in England, high fees for English students in Scotland l Scottish university principals concerned about funding gap between Scotland and England - and also about influx of students from England in the event of vote for independence.
(2) Widening access l Compared with Scotland, England has focused more on widening access initiatives & has more generous means-tested grants & bursaries l In both England and Scotland, vast majority of students in older universities are from professional & managerial backgrounds – reflecting wider educational & economic inequalities l In Scotland, free tuition does not appear to have led to increased representation of students from poorer backgrounds, particularly in pre- 92 universities (counter intuitive?) l From autumn 2013, grants for poorer students being reduced – same amount of funding available, but as loan. l Student funding in Scotland makes little allowances for economic differences in family background– current fees policy is not redistributive.
(3) Shared services l Feasible for Scotland to develop entirely independent HE system – e.g. could establish its own research council (like Ireland), students admissions system etc. l Universities Scotland maintains agnostic position on independence – but concerned that shared services remain whichever constitutional option is chosen l These include research funding (through Research Councils & REF), quality assurance, student admissions l Considerable inflow of funds from rUK – might be jeopardised if separate admissions system in place
(4) Underpinning principles and values l Whichever constitutional option is chosen, Scotland (and England) will have to clarify underpinning values l University education is clearly of benefit both to individual and to state – so how should we divide costs & benefits? l What version of equality should university participation reflect – equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? l What priority should be placed on widening access – and what measures will best achieve these goals? l What should be the balance between universalism and targeted support?
l Scottish HE policy distinctive because of its emphasis on universalism and its ostensible rejection of market-led approach to HE funding. l However, also strong commonalities and inter-dependencies – English policy on fees has strong impact on smaller neighbours. l Scottish universities operate within global market - university principals emphasise need for institutions to retain competitive edge. l Also strong lobby from universities to remain part of UK system with regard to research funding, admissions, quality assurance. Conclusion: policy divergence but strong inter- dependencies