NPC/03/05/B: Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, Response to the Joint Corporate Plan 2003-2006 Consultation

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Also in Consultations 2003...

by Tim Brown

In the response below you will find our answers to the questions as placed on the response form provided online. We have answered our questions in this way such that our responses could be shared with members of NPC Scotland electronically as we largely exist as a virtual committee.

1. Do you agree with our vision for post-school education in Scotland and our four key aims?

The four aims are in line with what NPC policy supports. These have been very much iterated in our response to consultations in England and Wales. We may, however, have policy on how they are approached, and this will apply slightly differently to institutions in Scotland.

2. Are the assumptions underlying the strategic aims correct?

We support the principle that the culture of learning and teaching is changing rapidly, such that new mechanisms are required with flexibility and transferability in what higher education students learn. Further to this we would note the student is becoming the customer of higher education, which will make significant difference.

There is no doubt that there will be difficulty in transition from schools and further education colleges to higher education institutions, we therefore recognise the need to bridge this gap. We do also recognise, however, there is a gap to be bridged between undergraduate and postgraduate education, such that this will hinder fair access for those who can achieve highly enough.

We support the need to invest in high quality research, although it is important to identify new and emerging research, which the research and assessment exercise does not determine.

3. Have we identified the right objectives for the period of plan in pursuit of each aim? And are the objectives realistic and achievable?

In light of the QAA strategy to bring transparency to the quality of teaching and learning, we would consider this to be an important objective, particularly in light of the growing interests of the student being the customer.

As far as objectives are concerned for fair access, we would also encourage institutional arrangements to be analysed and adjusted to the needs and interests of those from lower social class backgrounds, who will perceive higher education differently. This is vital to their academic progress.

4. Overall, will the aims that we have identified allow us to move significantly towards achievement of our vision for post-school education?

We see these aims as important elements of the vision, although some of the plans may prove ambitious to sufficiently meet in the next three years.

5. What suggestions do you have as the main targets that will allow us to demonstrate and measure progress on and achievement of our objectives?

We would expect to see progress on implementing the strategy in the form of future consultations broken down into individual areas, along with appropriate evidence being presented as to where improvements are actually necessary in higher education. Following this, we would expect to see clear strategy plans from higher education institutions as to how they expect to meet the necessary demands and use any funding.

6. What are the main risks to the achievement of our objectives?

We would see that there are radical changes necessary in the learning and teaching aspects particularly that may not meet the expected standards in the coming three years. In the future of higher education, teaching quality will be determined very much by the future teaching academy, which may take longer than this to form.

Another major item at risk is whether higher education institutions will be in a position such that they can attract industrial connections to facilitate a knowledge based economy. In certain cases, this may again require radical reform.

7. We have identified four key principles that the Councils and their joint executive should follow in carrying out their functions. What are your views on these principles?

We would support this, particularly the issue of working with stakeholders as necessary, although we would also support working with educational bodies to draw on their expertise.

8. What suggestions do you have as to the key indicators that we should use to measure the operation and performance of the councils and the joint executive over the planning period?

One major indicator we would support is the justification of plans for improvement based on evidence found before future actions are taken.