Vice-chancellor welcomes Scottish higher education bill

Ferdinand von Prondzynski says key governance issues have been addressed

November 13, 2014

Source: www.universitydiary.wordpress.com

The vice-chancellor who led a review of Scottish university governance has welcomed planned legislation that would require governing bodies to have elected chairs and to include student, staff and union representatives.

Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the principal of Robert Gordon University, said the Holyrood government’s proposed higher education bill “addresses the key issues that remained to be addressed”.

The bill would implement key recommendations of Professor von Prondzynski’s review, which reported in 2012, but publication of a consultation on the proposals divided opinion last week, with Universities Scotland arguing that a new governance code agreed by institutions had already prompted major strides towards increased transparency and accountability.

Pete Downes, the association’s convenor and the principal of the University of Dundee, questioned whether some of the Scottish National Party administration’s proposals were “appropriate subjects for government policy or legislation”.

NUS Scotland, meanwhile, highlighted the absence of certain outstanding recommendations, including the suggestions that remuneration committees dealing with senior managers’ salaries should include staff and student representatives, and that senior staff including principals could be included in the national pay spine.

Professor von Prondzynski told Times Higher Education that the legislation would “further protect” institutional autonomy and academic freedom while supporting the goals of transparency and wider engagement in decision-making.

“My impression of the document is that it addresses the key issues that remained to be addressed from the report my panel produced,” said Professor von Prondzynski.

“The code of governance produced by the Scottish chairs made major improvements but some issues could not be dealt with that way.”

Professor von Prondzynski acknowledged the importance of the remuneration issue raised by the NUS but argued that this was “probably not a matter for legislation”.

Announcing the consultation, Scottish education secretary Michael Russell said he was seeking the transfer of powers from Westminster to enable him to enact a further key recommendation from the review – a requirement for 40 per cent of the membership of governing bodies to be female.

Other proposals in the consultation include legislation that would require academic boards to be the final arbiters on academic matters, and for elected members to be in the majority on the panels.

Meanwhile, the bill would all but end the role of the Privy Council in Scottish university governance.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (1)

Really? Have a read of the consultation. The government is seeking powers all the way down to deciding what the Principal (or VC) calls him or herself. "External' stakeholders (who they, anyone like to guess? my bet is peoples representatives aka politicians) will be given a key say (through some undefined electoral college) in appointing governing body chairs. These chairs to be paid, thus opening the position to career politicians and professional committee time servers. Key changes to governance rules to be decided by First Minister, Lord Advocate and President of Court of Session. The Lord Advocate is similar to Attorney General (ie a political appointee). Senate size and rules to be determined by the Government. The threat ( in case there are those who dont know how it works) is if the Univs play rough, the government will legislate on salaries of senior management. All in the name of autonomy. Anyone who reads SFX guidelines (sorry rules) will know we are heading towards a micro managed sector. In true Orwellian fashion, we decorate the documents with words 'autonomy' ' academic freedom' when we mean exactly the opposite. As for Principal von Prondzynski he has played the game very well as the SNP government's man on the inside. Expect great things for him in the future.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations