THE SCOTLAND bill to establish a Scottish parliament, published last week, made only a passing reference to tertiary education in a curt mention of research councils.
The bill concentrates on the powers that will remain with Westminster. Anything not specifically mentioned will be devolved to the parliament, whose first elections are expected early in 1999.
This means that the parliament will be responsible for further and higher education, including the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and student support, science and research funding beyond the research councils, training policy and lifelong learning, vocational qualifications and careers advice and guidance.
The bill avoids setting out a detailed blueprint of how the parliament will work but stresses that it will have wide-ranging powers to take evidence from individuals and organisations concerned with devolved matters.
Ronald Crawford, secretary of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, said: "The committee will wish to interact with Members of the Scottish Parliament in the expectation that they will regard higher education as a key area of mutual concern."
Scottish unions have warmly welcomed the bill. David Bleiman, assistant general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "The Scotland bill is a blank sheet of paper as far as higher education goes."
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