CREID Briefing paper Briefing paper - Think Tank 1: The Funding of Higher Education in Scotland, the UK and Internationally

Reports & Briefings
Clare de Mowbray

The overall aim of this project is to consider the future challenges and opportunities faced by Scottish higher education in the case of further devolution or a vote for independence in autumn 2014. This think tank focuses on the future financing of Scottish higher education. Some of the forces influencing the funding of higher education cut across national boundaries. For example, the global higher education market is increasingly influential, reflected in the importance attached to international league tables by students and institutions. The global competition for staff and students encourages elite institutions to adopt strategies designed to maximise their income and market share, raising fees to the highest level which the market will bear. The European Union has also influenced the development of higher education systems across the European Higher Education Area, encouraging harmonisation in order to promote the free movement of staff and students. Despite these convergent forces, there are also divergent forces in play. For example, in order to emphasise its desire to promote universalism in public services, Scotland has removed higher education fees while England has introduced very large increases.

This pre-event briefing provides background information relating to the questions we will be considering during the course of the day, such as:

  • What  funding  regime  is  required  to  support  Scottish  students  through  higher education?
  • How can we sustain and manage access to Scottish universities from across the British Isles, the EU and overseas, whilst safeguarding access for students living in Scotland?
  • How should research in Scottish universities be funded in the future?

As noted by Trench (2009), in the field of higher education devolved powers interact with non- devolved ones, creating a complex system.  It is likely that many of these inter-dependencies are not fully  understood  by  the  general  public,  (nor  even,  necessarily,  by  officials  in  the  different jurisdictions who have to administer them). Some aspects of higher education funding, for example, student fees, vary greatly in different parts of the UK, whilst research funding arrangements are common across the UK. We consider each of these aspects in turn – but independence or further devolution might bring further changes across the piece.

thinktank1_briefingpaper_creid.pdf (672.02 KB, application/pdf)