Magazine article Times Higher Education

Staying Together but Accommodating Divergence

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Staying Together but Accommodating Divergence

Article excerpt

So it's all over now. The Scottish electorate has voted, by a clear if not overwhelming majority, to stay in the United Kingdom, and as I write, the politicians are engaged in a struggle to meet the promises they made and to deliver enhanced devolution to Scotland, and maybe some sort of federal plan for the UK as a whole.

So what is next for universities? For a start, they (or some of their academics) should get involved in the constitutional soul-searching. If Britain is to become more of a federal state, this raises complex issues that are very unlikely to be resolved by the single expedient of having English MPs meet on certain days without the members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is also not really compatible with a genuinely federal country to have the federal government double up as the government of one of the constituent states. So there are major legal and political issues to be addressed and Scotland's universities have several academics who can help.

But what about the wider setting in which Scotland's universities now find themselves? One might assume that nothing much will now change: Scotland remains in the UK, and so rest-of-the-UK students can be charged tuition fees in Scotland as before, Scotland's students can study for free, and the UK research councils will continue to fund Scottish research projects.

There are, however, some imponderables in all of this. If the Barnett formula changes (as some English MPs are suggesting it should), this may put pressure on Scottish public money, which in turn could affect funding for higher education. It is important to remember that the Scottish government has committed itself to maintaining university support at levels that provide similar resources to those enjoyed by English universities. …

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