One of Scotland’s most eminent scientists has described Scottish Government plans to exert greater control over universities as a “source of shame” which is already damaging the nation’s standing in the world.
Professor Jim Naismith, a Fellow of the Royal Society and Director of the Biomedical Research Complex at the University of St Andrews, said the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament seriously threatened university autonomy.
Professor Naismith made his remarks during an address to hundreds of new graduates in Younger Hall St Andrews today, November 30th 2015.
He said: “The UK and Scottish Governments, by reducing support for teaching and research, honour the cliché that education is the best investment, only in the breach.
“The decrease in Government funding is matched by increased Government meddling. The Scottish Parliament is currently debating a Bill to give the Minister extensive ill-defined powers that have the potential to end autonomy, a principle upon which we and other leading universities around the world are built.
“The Bill also dictates identikit structures for St Andrews and the equally excellent but completely different Glasgow School of Art. I do not see any of this enhancing or sustaining excellence, nor am I alone in these concerns.
“These actions and the underpinning political calculus should trouble the conscience of the civic society of any nation. I will not ask for a show of hands, but how many of you think that excellence will be improved by handing control of it to politicians?
“That this is happening in the birthplace of the Enlightenment, home to several of the world’s best universities, and in a country famed for commitment to education is, to me, a Scot, a source of shame.”
Notes to news editors
Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 462530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.