Students and staff celebrate passing of Higher Education Governance Bill

Bill will support election of university management leaders

REFORMS to improve the democratic governance of Scotland's leading universities and colleges have been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Higher Education Governance Bill seeks to improve participation in decision making through expanding elected posts.

The result, passed by 92 votes to 17, has been welcomed by student and staff campaign organisations.

"Reforming university governance and making our universities more democratic, transparent and accountable is something that UCU has campaigned for over many years." Mary Senior, UCU Scotland

Emily Beever, women's officer for the National Union of Students, said: "NUS Scotland warmly welcomes the passing of the Higher Education Governance Bill. It provides for far greater levels of staff and student involvement in key decision making, ensures that our universities - charitable bodies, rightly in receipt of over a billion pounds of public funding every year - are more representative and inclusive of the communities they serve.

"While the Bill as it stands is a big step forward, it's disappointing that MSPs missed the opportunity to address the gender imbalance that exists on our boards, or ensuring greater scrutiny and transparency on matters like principal's pay. However, with a review coming on the code of good governance that underpins our universities, and a clear message from MSPs and the Scottish Government that the status quo simply isn't good enough, staff and students will be continuing that campaign.

Calls for reform in university governance were sparked back in 2010, when mass protests and occupations gripped student campuses over education cuts and the threat of increased tuition fees.

"After years of campaigning by staff and student unions, this Bill will go a long way to addressing many of the shortfalls that currently exist in university governance. The Bill represents a positive step towards increasing the accountability, democracy, and transparency of decision making in our universities, a step that we absolutely welcome."

Calls for reform in university governance were sparked back in 2010, when mass protests and occupations gripped student campuses over education cuts and the threat of increased tuition fees.

The Von Prondzynski Review then proposed a series of reforms to university management.

Staff unions, University College Union (UCU) and the Educational Institute of Scotland, have both backed the Bill as a move towards a more democratic management system.

UCU Scotland Official, Mary Senior, said: "We welcome the passing of this important bill. Reforming university governance and making our universities more democratic, transparent and accountable is something that UCU has campaigned for over many years. These changes will reconnect the way universities are run with those most affected by decisions - the staff and students - and allow our universities to remain the world leading institutions they are."

The changes were opposed by university bosses, many who said they would not have taken on their position if they had required to receive the support of the university community.

Universities Scotland, which represents current university leaders, even hired a private lobbying firm for training in how to oppose the Bill.

University principals have faced criticism for sky-high pay deals at a time when staff have faced a deterioration in pay and working conditions.

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Picture courtesy of Glasgow Uni Occupied