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Universities are crucial to future

The spending review announced by John Swinney last week is a disappointing response to the strong case for investment in higher education made by universities. We are concerned it may weaken our competitive position relative to universities in England.

Our case was driven by three main ambitions. The first was to expand student opportunities so that Scotland would have the highly-skilled people it needs to fill tomorrow's jobs. The second was to build on the international standards of excellence in research. The third was to improve knowledge transfer to reap the economic benefits of our research.

Our proposals offered outstanding value. They would have delivered pound;340m of additional public benefit each year for less than half that - pound;168m - in additional public investment. The much smaller increase in investment that the Scottish Government plans is an opportunity missed. The settlement appears inconsistent with the Scottish Government's aspirations for economic growth. We will not now be able to maximise our contribution to the Scottish economy and we will have to assess what we can achieve with more limited investment.

Our priorities will be quality and international competitiveness. For students, this means providing an experience and environment matching the best international practice. For research, it means building on what is currently an exceptionally strong international position, which was demonstrated just last week by five of the most research-intensive Scottish universities being placed into the top 200 in the world league table.

Scotland's graduates and research are the key drivers of economic growth. Universities are, therefore, crucial to Scotland's future, and we want to engage urgently with the Scottish Government and other key partners to develop a clearer vision of higher education provision.

Sir Muir Russell, convener, Universities Scotland.

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