Scottish research 'must go it alone'

June 6, 2003

Scotland must go it alone on research funding in the wake of the Roberts report if it does not want to see its research base decimated, a university principal has warned.

Bernard King of the University of Abertay Dundee said the report was aimed at issues that did not exist in Scotland, and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council should not sign up to it.

At the annual university day dinner last weekend, he said: "Scotland has its own student-support system, its own funding system, its own teaching quality system and an intimate link between enterprise and lifelong learning. It is time for Scotland to have its own mechanisms to support research."

Professor King said Scotland must not be distracted by the top-up fees proposed for England, where the funding system remained badly skewed in favour of older universities. He said the white paper's proposals would fail to bridge the gap, and he predicted that much of the promised extra funding would support foundation degrees in further education colleges.

"If we try to play rationalisation games in a misguided attempt to compete with endowment-rich [US] institutions, we will soon be bankrupt financially, intellectually and economically," he said.

The Westminster government did not understand the educational needs of a knowledge economy, he said. But Scotland was fortunate in having a Ministry of Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, with a realistic vision of what could be achieved through greater links between industry and higher education.

"Scotland has the opportunity to gain competitive advantage and for its institutions to become genuinely world class, but not for their blue-skies research."

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