University access at heart of post-16 green paper

16th September 2011 at 01:00
Promise made of a place in education or training for all 16 to 19- year-olds

The Scottish Government has launched a green paper on post-16 education, confirming its promise of a place in education or training for every 16 to 19-year-old in Scotland. It also outlines plans to force universities to widen access and ease progression between schools, colleges and universities.

The plans could see the number of colleges reduced, while universities will be expected to collaborate more closely and consider mergers where it makes "educational and financial sense".

The Government paper Putting Learners in the Centre, also unveils plans to reform the careers service.

Mr Russell said he planned to legislate to ensure fairer access to higher education and introduce tougher measures, including financial penalties, to ensure young people from disadvantaged backgrounds got the chance to study at university. Student support will be strengthened by introducing a minimum income of pound;7,000 per annum for the lowest-income students.

To meet the economic challenges Scotland faced, employers had to be more closely involved, and skills development prioritised in key sectors, he said.

But changes also had to be made to the delivery of post-16 education to ensure this was done efficiently and effectively, said the Education Secretary. The college sector's structure dating back to 1993, when it was reformed under Thatcherite policy to introduce greater competition between institutions, had in some cases "led to wasteful duplication". He wanted to see regional groupings of colleges emerge, as well as changes to the college funding model, which was complex and lacked transparency. Governance arrangements at colleges also had to be reviewed.

He recognised universities' role in growing the economy through training and contributing research, but this also meant the Government had to focus its investment on excellence and closer alignment with national priorities.

"This Government spends close to pound;2 billion each year on post-16 education. We therefore have a duty - to learners, employers and taxpayers - to give them every confidence that public funds are being invested wisely and are delivering teaching and learning of the highest possible quality," Mr Russell said.

John Spencer, convener of Scotland's Colleges' Principals' Convention, said his "very real concern" in the Government's direction of travel was that it appeared to be seeking efficiencies "in having fewer colleges, but delivering the same teaching activity to the same numbers of learners".

"Our priority will be delivering quality education for learners, and we will want to ensure that reform does not have a negative impact on the learner experience or distract colleges from delivery," he said.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said universities would not look to "duck difficult questions".

Students would be delighted by the focus on improving student support and making access to education fairer, said Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today