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United-Kingdom-Scotland:Higher Education

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Overview United Kingdom (Scotland)

Contents

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Historical Development

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Political and Economic Situation

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Lifelong Learning Strategy

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation of Private Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:National Qualifications Framework

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Funding in Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Higher Education Funding

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Adult Education and Training Funding

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation of Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Assessment in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation of General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Teaching and Learning in General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Assessment in General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Types of Higher Education Institutions

United-Kingdom-Scotland:First Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Bachelor

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Short-Cycle Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Second Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Distribution of Responsibilities

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Main Providers

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Main Types of Provision

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Teachers and Education Staff

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Management and Other Education Staff

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Management Staff for Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Quality Assurance

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Educational Support and Guidance

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Mobility and Internationalisation

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Mobility in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

United-Kingdom-Scotland:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-Scotland:National Reforms in School Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

United-Kingdom-Scotland:National Reforms in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Scotland:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

United-Kingdom-Scotland:European Perspective

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Legislation

United-Kingdom-Scotland:Glossary


As laid out in the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Acts 1992 and 2005, higher education institutions (HEIs) provide sub-degree courses, first degree courses, courses for the education and training of teachers, courses of post-graduate studies at Masters and Doctorate levels and courses at a higher level in preparation for a qualification from a professional body. HEIs are also expected to carry out research.

 

Policy Objectives

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning provides the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) with letters of guidance, setting out the Scottish Government’s priorities for investment in colleges and HEIs. The SFC is a non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government. The SFC establishes an outcome agreement with each of the 19 HEIs; these agreements set out what HEIs plan to deliver in return for their funding from the SFC and allow the SFC and the sector to quantify improvements across the areas identified in the Cabinet Secretary’s letter of guidance, as well as other specific outcomes set out in offers and conditions of grant.

Scottish Government priorities for the academic year 2015-16 were expressed in the letter of guidance issued on 31st July 2014 by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. The Scottish Government indicated that it expects the SFC to ensure that improved outcomes are delivered by HEIs across the following areas:

  • High-quality, effective learning
  • Access to education for people from the widest range of backgrounds
  • Learning which prepares people well for the world of work and successful long-term careers, and in doing so supports our ambitions for economic growth
  • Internationally competitive and impactful research
  • Effective knowledge exchange and innovation including excellent university/industry collaboration.
  • Improving gender balance on governing bodies

In 2011 the Scottish Government published Putting Learners at the Centre: Delivering our Ambitions for Post-16 Education, which sets out proposals for wide-ranging reform of the full range of Government-funded post-16 education in Scotland - higher education, further education and skills. It stated that the Scottish Government is strongly committed to widening participation in both further and higher education. It recognised the work done by SFC through Learning for All, the SFC’s strategy for widening participation. Published in 2005, Learning for All proposed measures to monitor progress in widening access. Annual update reports on these measures of success have been published by SFC, these include reporting against measures requested by the Scottish Government.

 

The Organisation of Higher Education in the UK

Higher education in all four parts of the United Kingdom shares a number of characteristics and structural features. In the United Kingdom, HEIs are autonomous self-governing bodies which offer degrees by virtue of their own degree awarding powers or the degree awarding powers of another institution. These degree awarding powers are recognised by the UK authorities (UK and Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies). Institutions are responsible for appointing and employing their own staff (see Topic 9 Teachers and Education Staff). Grants for specific research projects and programmes are administered on a UK-wide basis through the seven UK research councils.

Within the context of institutional autonomy, some common approaches and frameworks are used. There is no system for the accreditation of institutions but the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) makes judgments on UK institutions’ capability to manage their own quality and standards. QAA publishes the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which provides the definitive reference point for providers. However, QAA (Scotland) has delegated responsibilities from the QAA Board for managing QAA work in Scotland and has developed a distinctive approach (see Chapter 11.2 Quality Assurance in Higher Education). Opportunities for international engagement also encourage a coordinated response. Reflecting these commonalities and shared missions, a number of sector-led bodies operate on behalf of HEIs across the UK. These bodies include Universities UK (UUK) (whose members are the executive heads of UK institutions), UCAS (which provides application services), the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the Committee of University Chairs (CUC).

There are also a number of differences. Scotland in particular has distinct traditions of higher education. For example, in Scotland, many students move into higher education at the age of 17 (rather than 18 in other parts of the United Kingdom); the Scottish higher education system favours a four-year undergraduate degree programme, which offers students enhanced flexibility and academic breadth; and the ancient universities of Scotland issue a Master of Arts as the first degree in humanities.

Moreover, since the late 1990s the devolved administrations of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have had responsibility for education, and policies in some areas have diverged. The most notable recent divergence is around tuition fees and student support, the funding of institutions and the related governance arrangements. For example, in Scotland, there are no direct course fees for first time undergraduate students from a country within the European Union. First degree students from Scotland or the rest of the EU studying in Scotland are entitled to have their tuition fees paid by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). Assessment of research continues to be undertaken on a UK-wide basis although there are differences in the way the four UK funding councils use the results to allocate funding for research infrastructure (see Chapter 3.2 Higher Education Funding).

 

Legislation

The relevant legislation relates to both higher and further education. The Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 made fundamental changes in the organisation of post-school education in Scotland.

Colleges (previously Further Education Colleges), which had previously been the responsibility of the education authorities, became "incorporated" (i.e. self-governing) under the general supervision of the then Scottish Office Education Department (and later that of the Scottish Government Lifelong Learning Directorate). These colleges contribute to higher education as well as to non-advanced further education.

The 1992 Act also created a separate Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC). This action removed the dividing line which existed between the former Central Institutions and the HEIs in respect of their funding mechanisms and created a distinctly Scottish body able to take major decisions affecting the future of higher education in Scotland. From 1 July 1999, under powers provided in the 1992 Act, a Scottish Further Education Funding Council (SFEFC) came into operation, replacing the former further education Funding Unit of the then Scottish Office Education and Industry Department (later the Scottish Government Lifelong Learning Directorate).

The Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005 dissolved SFEFC and SHEFC and created a new Scottish Funding Council (SFC). The 2005 Act repealed the sections of the 1992 Act, which referred to the old Councils. Merging the two Funding Councils allowed a more strategic overview of both the further education and higher education sectors, increasing transparency and allowing more coherent decision-making. SFC is responsible for funding Scotland’s colleges and HEIs. The Act also extends the powers of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to the actions of further education and HEIs.

 

Structure of the Academic Year

The structure of the academic year is not regulated by law. Under The Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992, HEIs are autonomous and can decide for themselves the start and finish of the academic year.

Some follow the traditional academic calendar and generally start in September or October and finish in May or June. Holidays during the year are typically at Christmas and Easter (for approximately a month each) and examinations would be at the end of the final term. Institutions are also autonomous regarding the time devoted to teaching activities, holidays and examination periods. Other HEIs have moved to a semester system which splits the year into separate teaching blocks with shorter holidays and examination periods twice yearly. Under this system students can start the year at different times e.g. in September or in January. Certain dates, such as 25-26 December and 1-2 January will be regarded as public holidays by all institutions.

Other post-school institutions offering further and higher education have an academic year closer in length and division to the school year.

For postgraduate (second and third cycle) students, the organisation of time varies. Where a taught master's programme has a duration of one year, this normally means a full calendar year.

Teaching normally takes place between 9.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m., from Monday to Friday, but may take place at other times. Part-time courses may be offered during the day or in the evening.

 

Legislative references

Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 (Act of Parliament) : 1992, c.37.

Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005 Act of the Scottish Parliament) : 2005, asp6.