Ucas could play its part after independence
Scottish students' university applications could still be dealt with by the UK admissions body Ucas in an independent Scotland, according to the body representing Scottish universities.
"To enable continued cross-border student flow there may be benefit in retaining a shared arrangement across the UK or its successors, as long as robust Scottish input can be assured so that the system meets the needs of Scottish institutions," a Universities Scotland report, Universities in a dynamic constitutional environment: policy issues for consideration, states.
The Scottish government's response was equivocal: "Ucas, as an independent UK body, has a wealth of experience and expertise in the management of a single application process for students and we will consider whether or how that expertise could be deployed for the benefit of Scotland."
The report reveals how Scottish HE principals would seek to capitalise if Scots vote for independence next year; they emphasise the prospect of better international relationships.
But Universities Scotland says it is taking no view on whether independence, the status quo or any other option is preferable. Principals simply lay out the possible advantages of constitutional change.
"In some cases, elements of existing policy provide a sound basis for universities' contribution (to Scotland's success), and are a good starting point for the evolution of policy by a Scottish government elected under any constitutional settlement," said Universities Scotland convener Professor Pete Downes.
"In other cases, the development of constitutional options creates an environment where new policy approaches can be conceived which better support universities' contribution to Scotland's success," he added.
Universities Scotland, which says the changes it seeks "could potentially be implemented under any constitutional option", sees a future in which Scottish universities carry more weight internationally and have stronger bonds with business and philanthropists.
The wish list in the report includes "enhanced representation of Scotland within EU research fora", as well as "enhancement of universities' scope for collaborative teaching and research at Scottish, UK, EU and international levels", and "the free movement, within the British Isles, EU and internationally, of students, staff and ideas".
The report calls for "a relaxation of visa restrictions which hinder the attraction and retention of international talent" and "increased resource for a collaborative approach to marketing Scottish universities' distinct offer overseas".
Universities Scotland wants the various sides fighting for Scotland's constitutional future to show how their path would bring about "better incentives, including tax incentives, to encourage a higher volume of Scottish and global businesses to build research collaborations with universities".
The report also makes the case for "improvements to tax relief" to encourage more investment from philanthropists.