Controlling impulses

July 10, 2014

Like Christopher Beedham (“A vote to leave the market”, Letters, 3 July), I am an Englishman living in Scotland, but unlike him I will not be voting for independence in the referendum. There are legitimate reasons to support Scottish independence, particularly the desire to have greater control over one’s local affairs - albeit at a price that includes having rather less international influence than is currently exercised at multiple levels by the UK. But avoiding research evaluation and the “managerialism” and “marketisation” of universities that has developed over the past two decades cannot be part of the argument.

These changes, many of which I regret, are far from unique to the UK, and it is difficult to suppose that independence will restore the golden age. Indeed, some of the changes that have occurred in Scotland under the Scottish National Party government whose raison d’être is independence indicate a strong controlling tendency from which the universities are unlikely to be immune. Examples include the recent Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which assigns everyone born in Scotland after August 2016 an official named person (“state guardian”) who will monitor reports (including medical ones) on “their children” and who can propose interventions; parents are not to be trusted. A further example is the creation of a single police force (Police Scotland), which has used stop and search powers, particularly of young people, at a rate that far exceeds that of the Metropolitan Police.

Independence is posited by its advocates as providing gains for Scotland, but it is likely to be disadvantageous to the university sector, which would be exposed to the serious risk of losing access to both UK-wide and European Union research funding, as well as having to operate within the inherent constraints of a small country.

Paul Trayhurn
Dean of research strategy
University of Buckingham

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