Don't cut industry tie, Scots urge executive

May 9, 2003

Scotland's university principals are pressing for lifelong learning to be kept alongside enterprise under the new Scottish Executive.

In last Thursday's Scottish parliamentary elections, Iain Gray, minister for enterprise, transport and lifelong learning, lost his seat to the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, David McLetchie.

Jack McConnell, who is expected to continue as first minister in the new administration, is believed to want to link the lifelong learning portfolio with school education, but Universities Scotland has urged him to keep the links between higher education and industry.

A spokesperson said: "We already have good links with schools, and a lot of policy developments have come from the link between enterprise and lifelong learning. These include the proof of concept fund (supporting commercialisation of research), work on employability, and promoting Scottish higher education internationally. We think it would be a shame to lose that."

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are thrashing out a coalition deal and ministerial portfolios. Appointments are not expected until next week.

The Universities Scotland spokesperson said: "Iain Gray was an able and committed minister who supported the higher education sector. He is a loss to Scottish government, but we look forward to working with his successor."

The Association of University Teachers Scotland believes the enterprise, transport and lifelong learning portfolio is too big, but it would be happy to see enterprise and lifelong learning stay together.

Parliamentary officer Tony Axon said the key issue for the new minister was how to steer the promised review of Scottish higher education funding in the wake of the white paper south of the border.

"It seems at present that it will be fairly analytical, not on a needs basis. It might be that whoever comes in as minister will change the criteria," he said.

Higher education bodies met civil servants on election day to discuss the funding review, which aims to assess how Scottish institutions compare with their English counterparts in terms of staff and running costs, student funding and external resources.

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