10 views for and against Scottish independence

Responses to THE Scottish independence referendum survey show different opinions on how outcome will affect universities

September 13, 2014

This week’s exclusive Times Higher Education Scottish independence referendum survey revealed the depth of feeling on the subject is as strong in universities as elsewhere in the community.

Although the overall results showed a 13.6 percentage point lead for “no”, there were fascinating splits by subject area and university.

Respondents to the survey were also invited to make comments on their voting intentions, and in particular on the separate question of what outcome they feel would be best for universities.

Here are a selection of comments from academics and administrators in both camps:

Yes

“I think independence has the potential to improve the position of universities in our society since the Scottish government - and indeed the Scottish people - have a commitment to university education which is recognised in the absence of tuition fees and the protection of public university funding. With a ‘yes’ vote I hope that the Scottish university system can flourish as an example to the rest of the UK of what the university can do and be.”

Anna McFarlane
University of St Andrews


No

“The UK has an integrated research funding structure, with competitive funding across the [country]. Currently Scottish universities attract about 14 per cent of these funds (at least 5 per cent more than if Scotland’s share was based on population) which is a great success story for Scotland. If Scotland became independent, it would cost Scottish taxpayers much more to maintain this level of funding by ourselves, and it seems likely therefore that less funding would be available.”

George Allen
University of Dundee


Yes

“Scotland’s distinct HE sector needs to be drawn completely away from the ideological stance of Westminster governments which has resulted in the imposition of a crude and reductive market-driven agenda to higher education. The principle of free higher education is up there with free health and social dignity as something that should be valued and protected, not reduced, as so much else in the UK now is, to a matter of whether an individual can afford it or not. Full independence offers the only longer term hope that the Scottish HE sector will be free and accessible to all the country’s citizens at the point of use.”

Andrew MacKillop
University of Aberdeen


No

“The financial viability of both an independent Scotland and universities within it seems fraught with risk. Research-intensive universities north of the border will lose access to research council funds and perhaps to funding from major UK charities. Our universities will have to bear a greater share of the cost of shared facilities and exercises from Jisc to the REF. Locally orientated research priorities will limit what academics can work on. Students will suffer too if there is a brain drain from Scotland to the rest of the UK.”

Greg Woolf
University of St Andrews


Yes

“[Universities would be better off in an independent Scotland] to protect our research excellence and allow us to attract and keep talented staff and students from around the world. The direction of travel in the UK is to insularity, exclusion and class-based expensive education.”

Mike Danson
Heriot-Watt University


No

“[By remaining in the UK] Scottish universities would continue to participate in UK university committees and research funding applications. They would continue to benefit from being part of a broad process of ‘peer review’ and collaboration.”

Jill Stephenson
University of Edinburgh


Yes

“At the moment Scottish universities are suffering from the Conservatives’ anti-immigration policies. If there are many fewer international students at UK universities, it will greatly damage the student experience and the sharing and exchange of ideas from different cultures and worldviews, that students currently benefit from, as well as greatly damaging universities’ finances. The people of Scotland want to maintain free, world-class universities which are open to and benefit from international students. Only independence will allow us to do so.”

Amanda Grimm
University of Edinburgh


No

“I believe remaining in the UK is the best outcome for Scottish universities so that they can secure a sustainable future for their staff and students, continue to build upon innovative and leading research through the help of UK funding, and be part of a bigger picture that embraces an ‘us’ rather than ‘I’ mentality.”

Rachael Hayward
Robert Gordon University


Yes

“Scotland values access to education to enable all who aspire to have a chance to learn. The reforms taking place in the rest of the UK are destroying opportunities for those on low incomes, and will inevitably be introduced in Scotland unless we achieve total control of our budgetary decisions.”

Gordon McLeod
University of Glasgow


No

“It is unlikely that the current UK-wide allocation of research funding would continue in the event of Scottish independence, which would be very damaging to the future and reputation of Scotland’s universities.”

Keith Wilson
University of Glasgow


Yes

“Firstly, the very high possibility of the UK leaving the EU would leave HE with a loss of billions of pounds in funding. Also the idiotic approach to immigration and England’s fear of colonial fall-out already hurt the HE sector significantly with the loss of Indian students.”

Nathalie Sheridan
Glasgow Caledonian University


No

“[Staying in the UK is better due to] funding and student confidence. I don’t believe Scottish universities will attract as many overseas students as they do at the moment if they are not part of the UK. Also I don’t think an independent Scotland will be able to afford to fund higher education as it is at the moment.”

Alan Mumford
Edinburgh Napier University


Yes

“We need to get away from the market-driven approach to universities, and I think that will be easier in an independent Scotland when we can influence policy much more directly. Who knows, we may even have the common sense to ditch the REF!”

Michael Marten
University of Stirling


No

“I believe that within-country collaboration is better that cross-border cooperation. This is particularly the case for large scientific challenges with the strongest examples including Cern [and] medical research that is [funded in] large projects [by] RCUK and charities.”

Eileen Wall
Scotland’s Rural College


Yes

“The UK governments are more right wing than Scotland’s resulting in cuts to public bodies in favour of tax cuts to big business or citizens. Services suffer including HE and research establishments… Independence would give Scotland the power to protect these services.”

Gavin Innes
Robert Gordon University


No

“[Staying in the UK is better due to:] Prestige to attract overseas students and staff. Cross-border research and funding. Free tuition could remain for Scottish students. Numbers of places would remain stable.”

Deborah Rodgers
University of Strathclyde


Yes

“In the long run it will lift Scotland out of the UK’s privatisation/austerity programmes. It will allow greater freedom of movement of staff and students into Scotland.”

Jenny Tizard
Edinburgh Napier University


No

“Scotland’s universities are research powerhouses, and are net winners from the UK’s research council and charity funding systems. Separation would lead to lower funding and, in my opinion, would lead to risks of increased political interference in research programmes.”

Stuart Auld
University of Stirling


Yes

“We have an excellent record in research and teaching. This can only be maintained and increased with a government who care about the inhabitants of Scotland. Scottish universities would be able to widen access further and MEAN IT!”

Jane Thomson
University of Strathclyde


No

“Research projects on hold just now, because of the uncertainty caused by the referendum, would go ahead [in the event of a ‘no’ vote]. With renewed vigour we can work with academics and practitioners throughout the UK to address problems such as poverty, the future of health service delivery, and cancer research.”

Kate Stephen
University of the Highlands and Islands

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