Glasgow University intensifies criticism of governance reform

By Calum Henderson


Plans to reform the governance of Scottish universities has come under fire from one of the country’s educational institutions. The General Council of Glasgow University, an independent body representing graduates, has urged its alumni to oppose the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill, which contains proposals to appoint trade union members to university ruling Courts and to hold elections for the post of Court Chair.

Critics of the bill fear it will threaten the independence of universities, and, by reclassifying them as public institutions, remove their charity status and damage their ability to raise crucial funds from private donations.

John Marsh, convenor of business at the General Council, said: “the business committee is particularly concerned about the arrangements for appointing the chair of Court, which weakens the position of the rector.”

He urged Glasgow University’s some 190,000 graduates to pressurise MSPs on the future of the bill.

In September the legislation was criticised by the recently-elected rector of Glasgow University, US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who said the bill represented “a real threat to the financial and academic independence of the university system.”

The previous month, the General Council of St Andrews University also expressed its concern about the legislation, calling it an ‘unnecessary bureaucratic burden.’

In defence of the bill, Emily Beever, Woman’s Officer for the student body NUS Scotland claimed that John Marsh’s comments were “misleading at best”, adding that the bill would “empower both staff and students and strengthen the role of rector.”

The Scottish government also sought to calm concerns over autonomy and a Holyrood spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government will not be involved in the appointment of an individual chair at any institution, or any member of an academic board so the suggestion of government exerting greater direct control over the sector isif (document.currentScript) {