By Émer O’Toole, News Editor
Women should make up at least 40 per cent of the governing bodies of Scottish universities, according to Education Secretary, Michael Russell.
This comes as the Scottish Government publishes a consultation on new legislation next year to change the way Scotland’s 18 universities are run.
Last year, Scottish universities were accused of having outdated values on gender equality, with figures showing only 25 per cent of women in management positions.
Russell said that universities “must continue to evolve and innovate” if they want to “keep [their] standards high.”
“Our higher education institutions must continue to have a strong democratic accountability in their governance arrangements. This includes having elected chairs and a better gender balance.”
The discussion comes three years after the publication of a review of university governance chaired by Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, principal of Robert Gordon University.
The review recommended governing bodies should ensure at least 40 per cent of their membership was female – and also called for elected chairs.
It was also recommended that both staff and students should be involved in the consultation, The von Prondzynski review also recommended staff and students should be involved in the election, evaluation and salary setting of principals – but this has not been taken forward under the new consultation.
Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, welcomed the move, but encouraged further action.
He said: “The new proposals would still leave us short of achieving the full range of recommendations in the original review of university governance.
“For universities to be delivering the greatest public benefit, we need to see a legislative basis for fair representation on our governing bodies, greater transparency of senior university officials’ pay and a requirement for universities to fulfil their wider social responsibilities.”
Pete Downes, convener of Universities Scotland, said that “Universities have just adopted a governance code” and that the body will “urge careful appraisal of whether government action will enhance universities’ implementation of the principles which are at the heart of our autonomy and success.”
We will discuss whether various of the proposals in the consultation are appropriate subjects for government policy or legislation, or whether they reflect recommendations which the von Prondzynski review made to universities rather than to government.”
Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, added: “We have long campaigned for better governance of universities and for the Scottish Government to legislate on the proposals from the von Prondzynski review.”
The consultation will also examine the Privy Council’s role in relation to Scottish higher education governance to a new committee based in Scotland.
It would also give a new definition of academic freedom, highlight the role of principals and ensure the Senate body of academics was “fully representative.”