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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.

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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:

1 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

2 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.

3 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?

4 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

5 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.

6 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…’

7 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.

8 (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.

9 (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

10 (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?

11 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

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