Snobbery is harming Scottish institutions

August 16, 2002

Scotland's traditional universities must abandon their "inflated academic snobbery" and work with new universities to help Scotland emerge from recession, a leading MSP said this week.

Alex Neil, convenor of the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee, said, in the wake of news that Scotland had slipped into recession, that a key component of the country's long-term economic development would be heavy investment in higher and further education.

But Mr Neil, speaking yesterday at the Association of Commonwealth Universities' conference at the University of Abertay, Dundee, said a priority must be to end competition between institutions.

"Employers are fed up with institutional strife, sometimes based on inflated academic snobbery by the older universities. We should be proud of all our universities and arrange the funding mechanisms so that collaboration becomes the name of the game."

The enterprise and lifelong learning committee is next month expected to publish its final report on the future of higher education, which Mr Neil has said will offer a blueprint for the next 15 years. He told the Abertay conference that it was essential to improve pay and conditions for academics to prevent them being lost to international competitors.

"We must also overhaul the research assessment exercise to make it less bureaucratic and to encourage entrepreneurship," he said.

He also suggested a placement scheme through which graduates would work in small and medium-sized businesses for a year. "This would give them some much needed work experience and the businesses some much needed expertise," he said.

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