Government needs to drop spin on funding issue

11th July 2008 at 01:00
The taskforce report on higher education, published a couple of weeks ago, appears to be an exercise in creeping government control
The taskforce report on higher education, published a couple of weeks ago, appears to be an exercise in creeping government control. We should not forget that it was created out of a funding crisis, which has meant that universities have a real-terms cut this year, for the first time since devolution.

After wading through the Government padding, it is clear the change to the working relationships is a continuation of the reforms which Nicol Stephen set in motion in the last administration.

The major difference is the emasculation of the Scottish Funding Council, which the SNP sees simply as its delivery arm rather than a respected strategic body. The fact that the Government wishes to have absolute control over the so-called "horizon fund" for universities is cause for concern.

Similarly, the failure to mention Skills Development Scotland, the new national skills quango or Scotland's colleges, is extremely worrying.

The combination of cuts and the centralisation of government control sits uncomfortably with the language of giving universities greater freedoms. I am wary that this is creeping government control masked by ministerial spin. The Government needs to be much clearer about this.

Jeremy Purvis MSP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary, Scottish Parliament.

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