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The Scottish Funding Council has an ongoing commitment to improvement and impact. Over the last decade, we have led and responded constructively to a number of reforms that have helped simplify and strengthen the education, skills, research and innovation landscape, including college regionalisation, widening access, and the launch of the innovation centre programme.

In 2021 we delivered our own National Review of Tertiary Education and Research which set out the following key recommendations for system change:

  • Developing a clear strategic, longer-term vision and intent for the future of tertiary education and research undertaken by colleges and universities in Scotland.
  • Protect excellent discovery research and develop mission-orientated research/knowledge exchange activities.
  • Build capacity and a more systematic approach to the way we collectively plan coherent tertiary provision and skills provision and investment.
  • Find better ways to support learning throughout life.
  • Ensure the interests of current and future students are protected.
  • Recognise more fully the importance of international education connections.
  • Galvanise current and future leaders across tertiary education, skills provision and research.

More recently, the Scottish Government has committed to reforming education and skills public bodies in Scotland. This is part of an ongoing Government ambition that the public sector become more efficient and financially sustainable, including in education. For example, in response to the March 2022 Muir Review the Scottish Government has committed to replace Education Scotland and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. The Hayward Review on qualifications for learners aged 15-18 was also published in June 2023. All of these initiatives should be considered as a whole to ensure that learners remain at the heart of the system, whatever their journey.

The changes for post-school education and research are underpinned by its Purpose and Principles which responds to the James Withers’ Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape, published in June 2023. The Withers Review recommended a number of changes to the current system to prioritise the needs and interests of learners, maximise the effectiveness and value for money of Scottish public bodies, and ensure parity of esteem between colleges and universities. The Review considered the functions and remit of SFC, alongside other bodies such as Skills Development Scotland (SDS), the enterprise agencies and the new education and qualifications bodies.

Many of the recommendations in the Withers Review aligned with our 2021 Review and Call for Evidence response. Essentially, any changes should help to strengthen sector assurance, simplify funding pathways, improve employer engagement, consolidate apprenticeships, and safeguard research and innovation. SFC is an essential partner in the ongoing development and implementation of these proposals, and we are working closely with the Scottish Government and other relevant public bodies.

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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