Draft Scottish Code of Good Higher Education Governance

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 26 June 2013.

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Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

13. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the reported comments of Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski and other panel members of the review of higher education governance in Scotland on the draft Scottish code of good higher education governance. (S4O-02304)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I was pleased to welcome the proposals in the von Prondzynski review and agree that it is important that they are implemented appropriately. The work to develop the draft code is important in taking the process forward and building on existing good practice. The provision in the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill for the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council to determine the principles of good governance will also help. The willingness of Lord Smith, as chair of the group that drew up the code, to listen to views for improvement and to consult is welcome.

However, it is obvious that a new code cannot implement all of the review recommendations. That is why it has always been our intention to implement the recommendations in three distinct ways: by engaging key sector stakeholders as implementation partners; by engaging the sector itself in implementing recommendations by agreement; and by employing legislation where necessary.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for that comprehensive reply. He will be aware that NUS Scotland expressed a number of concerns about the code, in particular about the fact that staff and students will not be fully included in the decision-making process on the appointment and remuneration of principals. What steps will the Scottish Government take to address those concerns?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

From the very beginning, I have been keen to see that the students, staff and others are involved in the process. On a number of occasions, I have drawn the need for that to the attention of the chairs of court.

I fully support the principle of having more transparency. I expect the recommendation on that to be further reflected in the final version of the code. Last night I—and, I believe, the convener of the Education and Culture Committee—received a letter from Lord Smith that indicates areas in which he is likely to make progress. That will be positive. However, we need to see the final code before deciding what further action, if any, is required.

The university sector advisory forum, which has a broad membership from across the sector, including student, staff and trade union representatives, will also have an important role to play. Indeed, that arises out of the von Prondzynski review. On 12 June, I chaired the advisory forum’s first meeting, at which it was agreed that the key part of its initial focus will be the implementation of the von Prondzynski recommendations and the new governance code. We will also have an opportunity to consider whether further legislation is required, and I have committed to bringing a bill to the Parliament in coming years.