By Mathew R Johnstone
The Scottish government is planning to change the way the heads of Scottish universities are appointed.
Legislation planned for next year would mean the heads of universities would need to be elected by “appropriate” people within the university, including students.
The election process is aimed at making the governing bodies of universities more accountable, as well as improving higher education standards across Scotland.
Education Secretary Mike Russell said: “We must continue to evolve and innovate if we are to keep our standards high.”
Currently, the process for selecting the head of the university is different for each institution. According to the Scottish Government these desired changes would make this process more “competitive, balanced and transparent.”
The job description would be more clearly defined, and the position opened out to candidates from outside the university. The finalist would then face an election as the final part of the job interview.
Other proposals include giving students more equal representation in the university’s governing body, along with academics, teaching and support staff. Two students, nominated by the student’s union, would be involved in top-level decision making.
Russell said that Scottish universities are “diverse organisations, characterised by a distinctive ethos with autonomy at the core” and highlighted that this was not government trying to be more involved in universities.
The proposals came after a recent report that criticised the government for not doing more to increase access to university for those from the most deprived areas in Scotland.
Also included in the proposed legislation was the aim to regulate the gender balance of university courts, with a mandatory 40% of the board reserved for women.
Holyrood currently does not have the power to legislate a minimum percentage of women on these governing bodies, but ‘dialogue was opened’ with Westminster to transfer these powers to the Scottish Government.
This move towards equal representation comes after Nicola Sturgeon created a gender balanced cabinet in her first week as First Minster, pledging to “tackle inequality.”
President of NUS Scotland Gordon Maloney welcomed the proposals, but said they did not go far enough to introduce “greater transparency of senior university officials’ pay.”
The proposals are the result of a report produced by Robert Gordon University principal Ferdinand Von Prondzynski, who investigated the way Scottish universities are introduced.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);