Edinburgh offers way to forum

October 10, 1997

Royal Society of Edinburgh offers help

The Royal Society of Edinburgh has made a bid to house the Scottish higher education forum proposed by the Garrick committee, the Scots version of Dearing.

The forum would advise the Scottish secretary on higher education strategy and the RSE says it could also help the new Scottish parliament.

The society, which represents all branches of learning, argues that it is uniquely placed to play a prominent part in the forum, "and could indeed itself arguably be the most appropriate home for it".

The RSE also supports filling the post of chief scientific adviser for Scotland, with responsibility for identifying and developing a strategy for Scottish research.

It is wary of Dearing's recommendation that institutions be encouraged to make strategic decisions about whether or not to enter departments for the research assessment exercise.

"This could result in risk-averse higher education institutions being unwilling to expose some departments with research aspirations to the uncertain financial outcome of the reorganised RAE. The pool of usable research might thereby be reduced, to the economic and other disadvantage of the nation," it says.

On standards, the RSE warns that the Quality Assurance Agency's remit is ambiguous and needs to be more clearly defined.

The proposed Institute for Learning and Teaching will be most effective if it is owned by the higher education profession itself, and accreditation of any training schemes should not be devolved to the QAA "because of the dangers of too narrow a prescriptive focus".

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