Mixed reaction to Scottish recommendations

July 25, 1997

SCOTTISH education minister Brian Wilson has pledged careful consideration of how tuition fees will apply to the four-year Scottish honours degree, and said he strongly endorsed Sir Ron Garrick's recommendation of ensuring equitable treatment across the United Kingdom.

"I don't want to see the Scottish four-year degree being eroded by purely financial pressures," he said. "But the question has to be asked on educational rather than financial grounds if the preponderance of four-year degrees has in fact devalued the coinage."

The Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals said it enthusiastically welcomed both Dearing and Garrick. Chris Maddox, Coshep's vice convener, said: "We see the recommendation of the general degree as fitting in with moves which many of us are beginning to make." But Professor Maddox said Coshep was unhappy that the proposed threshold for graduate repayments was too low. "We strongly advise Government to raise this."

Shamin Akhtar, president of the National Union of Students Scotland, said: "NUS Scotland recognises the shortfall in the funding, but maintains that charging tuition fees is not the solution." But she welcomed financial help for part-time students, and the abolition of the cap on student numbers.

Peter Breeze, honorary secretary of the Association of University Teachers Scotland, said the union greatly regretted that a funding burden was being imposed on students. "Government needs to protect the four-year degree, which means fee waivers."

He warned that Government urgently needed to address the 6 per cent shortfall facing Scottish higher education next year.

Garrick has suggested there could ultimately be a merger between a further and higher education funding council. Mr Wilson said: "There is a distinctive role for both further and higher education, and it is more important to enhance the status of further education than to pretend that it's all part of the same thing."

Tom Kelly, chief officer of the Association of Scottish Colleges, said: "Our main concern is how a funding body operates. It should be transparent, with planning horizons of at least three years. The worry about a funding council with an organisational link to the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council is that further education would lose its identity."

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