The SNP are intent on pressing ahead with damaging university reforms by refusing to support amendments to improve the Higher Education Governance Bill, the Scottish Conservatives said today.
Institutions including St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow – have previously criticised the bill, which would see universities lose autonomy and the Scottish Government take on more control over a range of matters.
But today, at the Education and Culture Committee, Angela Constance rejected amendments which would make the bill more acceptable to the higher education sector.
This included a refusal to exempt small specialist institutions such as the Royal Conservatoire and the Glasgow School of Art from the plans.
The bill is deeply unpopular with the sector, and only in the past week high profile individuals such as Edinburgh principal professor Tim O’Shea and the 18 chairs of university courts have spoken about their opposition to the plans.
The Scottish Conservatives are calling on the SNP government to improve their approach to this bill at stage 3 and work with the sector and opposition parties to put forward amendments that will make it more acceptable to the institutions that are expected to deliver these changes.
Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said:
“Despite the fact that the bill after stage 2 remains an utter shambles, the SNP are intent on pressing ahead with deeply damaging reforms which will undermine the effective working of our higher education institutions.
“Instead of respecting the autonomy and diversity of the sector ministers want to impose a one size fits all structure so they can keep tighter control of what goes on in our universities. This point has been made to the Scottish Government time after time yet ministers will not listen.
“The Scottish Government has still produced no evidence to support why it considers the bill to be necessary and, at the same time, it has dismissed all the evidence from those in the sector who would be asked to deliver the changes.
“Worse still, the cabinet secretary claims that she has consulted widely but the fact is that there were absolutely no consultations between Universities Scotland and the Scottish Government between stages 1 and 2 of the bill.
“This is a very unusual situation and so it is little wonder that this bill has attracted such widespread condemnation.
“The SNP appear to think it is more important to try to dig out the cabinet secretary from the huge hole that she has created than it is to agree democratic, pragmatic and workable proposals.
“Unless there are radical changes to the Scottish Government’s approach to stage 3 this bill is in serious danger of doing long term damage to our universities, something that would be unforgivable.”