Scottish universities could face mergers over ‘course duplication’

The Scottish government has said that some universities north of the border should merge to avoid “overlaps in provision”.

September 14, 2011

In a major policy document setting out the future shape of higher education in Scotland, the Scottish National Party administration says that there is duplication of provision, particularly in urban areas.

The pre-legislative agenda Putting Learners at the Centre: Delivering our Ambitions for Post-16 Education, released today, also proposes giving ministers extra power to enforce mergers.

“Around the urban areas of Scotland there are often overlaps in provision between some of the more regional universities,” the document says.

“We think there is also some room for some consolidation in the university sector.”

The agenda proposes giving the Scottish Funding Council the duty to “periodically” review the number of fundable colleges and universities in Scotland.

The SFC would be able to make recommendations, “including mergers, new fundable bodies or transfers of provision”.

“The test would be the need to improve the value for money and coherence of provision. The SFC would be required to justify its recommendations and publish the evidence base on which it was founded,” the document says.

“Scottish ministers would have the power to require the governing bodies of fundable bodies to work with the SFC to respond to and implement the recommendations.”

The agenda also argues that some subjects such as languages need to be monitored to make sure they are available at most universities.

“By and large most subjects are available relatively widely in universities across

Scotland. However some subjects (languages, for example) require careful monitoring to

ensure that this continues to be the case,” it says.

“In the case of languages, a distinction needs to be made between learning to speak a second language and cultural and area studies.”

However the document also says that “there are other subjects, such as nursing, where there is duplication of effort.”

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