Scottish Higher Education- Addressing the Gaps

The SNPīs proposed Scottish Life Sciences Institute is at once welcome and indicative of how Scottish HEIs address perceived gaps in the sector. Scottish universities have always been good at pooling resources for teaching and research. The co-operation between neighbours Glasgow and Strathclyde, even to the extent of joint departments, is outstanding. Joint research in fields like chemistry and others cuts across the entire range of Scottish universities, from the Ancients to the Post-92 institutions. A Scottish Life Sciences Institute, with input from all HEIs active in the field, would allow individual institutions to contribute to their varying potentials while collectively providing the maximum benefit to students and researchers and allow the HEIs to build individually and collectively on their strengths as research centres. Together, they can achieve more than they can individually.

This same approach could and should be applied to gaps elsewhere in Scottish higher and postgraduate education. This is particularly true of our collective knowledge (or lack of it) of certain parts of the world. Thousands of second- and even third-generation Scots have an Asian language as their mother tongue. This is knowledge and knowledge is power. But this knowledge will not last forever without a solid academic base to support and nurture it. It is only because of the strong culture and family ties of South Asia that immigrant communities have kept their languages to the third generation but this cannot be relied upon for the future.

We have yet to discover the Scottish university where one can graduate in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi or any other South Asian language. A Scottish Institute for South Asian Studies, with input from departments of history, politics,economics, geography, sociology and theology & religious studies, would provide a focal point for research into this part of the world which is growing economically (and thereby in power) and with which we have strong family ties, through immigration and older Commonwealth associations. It would also provide an impetus for the study of the languages of the area, an important asset in dealing with countries with which we have such strong social and, potentially, economic links.

The same can be said of other parts of the world. We are told, anecdotally, that, of the newer EU members, the one with which Scotland has the greatest volume of trade is Estonia. Everything we have said of the study of South Asia in Scotland is also true of the Baltic states (and, as regards languages at least, largely of the Nordic states also). And then, of course, thereīs China. A concerted effort to facilitate study and research into these world regions would not only provide $the individual with the opportunity to acquire academic training in chosen fields of interest but also facilitate Scotlandīs social, cultural, economic and political ties with these regions, for potentially considerable mutual benefit.