Higher Education

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:39 pm on 13th June 2007.

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Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 2:39 pm, 13th June 2007

On the issue of investment in teachers, I have indicated that the legacy left to us by the previous Administration—of probationers who are trained but who have no jobs in our classrooms—is very sad indeed and is causing difficulty and heartache for many individuals. However, I have taken early action to see what we can do about that, and I intend to make an announcement to Parliament.

On higher education funding in Scotland compared with other areas, I think that our universities are well funded. The argument that is being put forward is about what happens when the tuition fee cap is lifted in England. As I said in answer to a previous question, that is not due to be reviewed until 2009 and implementation would follow thereafter. We must ensure that we have a good deal for universities in this comprehensive spending review, but it would be a mistake to indicate that universities are somehow cash strapped, because universities do not want to be given that description at this stage. They want a good, fair deal that takes them forward.

I say to Murdo Fraser that the issue is that we have to make decisions in the weeks ahead in the comprehensive spending review for this session, but we also have to look forward. It is not just about competing with England; universities have to compete abroad, so we have to consider what is happening in Asia, America and other places.

We will not have a successful Scotland if we have a well-resourced university base but students who cannot afford to study there. That is why we have to have a twin-track approach that involves supporting our universities in terms of research and teaching and also ensuring that our students are not encumbered with excess debt that holds back them and their families and puts a millstone of debt around their necks.

Today, we have shown how an inventive, creative Government with a will to deliver on its manifesto can produce a result that not only works for individuals, but makes better use of public finances.