Scots slipped away in swinging sixties

January 3, 1997

THE UNIVERSITY Grants Committee offended Scottish Office sensibilities in 1965 with student allocations that fell short of the Robbins report's estimates of demand.

Scottish Record Office files revealed this week include a letter from the Scottish Education Department to the UGC complaining that Scottish allocations for 1967/68 were 92.4 per cent of the Robbins estimates, compared to 99.3 per cent for England and Wales. By 1973/74, the Scottish allocations were to drop to 88.2 per cent, while England and Wales soared to 102.5 per cent.

The SED complained that this meant English institutions absorb- ed virtually all English entrants, despite evidence that they found Scottish universities attractive.

Support was growing for Scotland's sixth university to be sited in Inverness to boost the region.

Novelist Naomi Mitchison was a lone dissenter on the Highlands and Islands Advisory Panel, arguing that the criterion should be academic interest, not the potential benefit to an area. Inverness was unsuitable because of the needs for research facilities, well-equipped libraries, and staff and student contact with colleagues, she said.

Following press claims that the Scottish Office favoured Stirling, the eventual winner, the SED said to pursue such an argument "misunderstands the respective responsibilities and is incorrect".

But its hands-off approach foundered when it came to the future of Heriot-Watt College, then affiliated to Edinburgh University.

SED secretary Sir William Arbuckle favoured closer links with the university but eventually admitted: "I have been told in confidence by the principal of the college that the governors, influenced, I am afraid, by instances of inconsiderate and high-handed treatment by the university in the past have pretty well made up their minds against a closer or even a continued association with the university."

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