Good governance would be good news

The paths of Higher and Further Education are increasingly diverging in the different nations of the UK. UCU Scotland president Douglas Chalmers writes about some of the proposed positive changes for governance of universities in Scotland, and why this might be a good example for others to use in their campaigning:

Headshot of douglas

Douglas Chalmers, President UCU Scotland

Examples of bad governance in the FE and HE sectors are of little surprise – we have to live with the results of it day by day. Proposed changes in the structure of HE governance in Scotland are something that can be of help to everyone however – in HE and FE, inside and outside Scotland.

Following some particularly bad examples of governance resulting in the merger of Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University in 2011, the Scottish Government was persuaded to set up a wide ranging examination of HE Governance chaired by Ferdinand Von Prondzynski, principal of Robert Gordon University, and with STUC input from UCU member Terry Brotherstone. The report, published in February 2012 recommended wide ranging changes to bring more transparency to the sector, with proposals for legislation which would lead (amongst other things) to trade union nominees on governing bodies, and elected chairs of court, voted on by staff and students at each institution.

Following consultation to which UCU Scotland contributed, this bill is now before the Scottish Parliament, and although opposed vociferously by Universities Scotland (formerly known as COSHEP, the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals), continues to have the backing of the SNP government, and of the Labour Party in Scotland (although they are critical of aspects of the Bill’s wording).

UCU Scotland provided further written evidence to the Scottish Government in favour of the changes, and our Scotland official Mary Senior recently appeared before the Education Committee of Parliament at Holyrood, to answer questions on our support for the bill.

The main opponents of the Bill, Universities Scotland have run a very negative campaign, claiming amongst other things that University rectors would be abolished (wrong), Universities would lose their charitable status (wrong), and the ONS classification of universities would be changed with negative implications for fund raising (wrong).

All UCU activists would benefit from reading the original Von Prondzynski report, the Government Bill and the UCU evidence at each stage. If it will work for Scotland, then why won’t it work anywhere (and if it will work in HE, why not in FE?).