SFC news published since 2018. See SFC archived content for earlier news articles.

The Scottish Funding Council’s Interim Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes, Jacqui Brasted, introduces the new Outcomes Framework and Assurance Model. 

The current system of outcome agreements between the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and colleges and universities was introduced in 2012. It was designed to move the focus away from inputs and towards what could actually be achieved for learners, researchers and wider society. I think it’s fair to say that it broadly achieved that aim and we now have a clearer view of the impact of public funding for teaching and research. 

However, the world doesn’t stand still. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, and against what we described at the time as a ‘backdrop of challenge and opportunity’, SFC carried out a national review of tertiary education and research. One of the things people told us in the review was that we should refresh the outcome agreement process. So, that’s what we’ve been doing over the past two years or so. Building on feedback from the review, we began by carrying out a detailed evaluation in partnership with colleges, universities and other partners.  

The result is that 2023-24 will be the final year of the outcome agreements system. For 2024-25 we will replace it with a new Outcomes Framework and Assurance Model. The model will provide an even clearer picture of the direction of travel for tertiary education and research and, at the same time, will allow colleges and universities to progress towards national goals in a way that works for them. The new system builds on the diversity of the tertiary education sector in Scotland and recognises the different strengths and missions of colleges and universities.  

Moreover, the new system will be supported by an assurance model which, in striving to reduce the administrative burden on institutions, will make the best possible use of existing sources of data and reporting. Our new assurance mechanisms for quality and research will be fully integrated within the overall system to avoid any duplication of effort.  

Underpinning the assurance element of the framework will be regular interactions with colleges and universities. These engagements will be informed by a close understanding of the social, academic and economic context within which each institution operates and by the data SFC is now able to collate and evaluate within its policy, insights and analytics teams.  

In considering changes on any level, it’s important to have a clear idea of what the gains will be. In the new Outcomes Framework and Assurance Model, I’m confident we will have something that is robust but also adaptable to a changing environment. One of the legacies of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we now know what it feels like to have to change course suddenly when our plans and expectations are overturned. While those kinds of systemic shocks are thankfully rare, the need for flexibility is a constant, even more so amid the current constraints on public spending. 

Another very relevant question is what comes next? We certainly don’t plan to launch the new framework without offering further support and engagement to colleges and universities. So, over the next few months there will be ongoing discussions across the sector about the implementation of the new framework. These will be through a range of committees and networks, as well as through the excellent points of contact that have been developed over the years through outcome agreements. You will be able to follow the results of these discussions and find out more about the framework through the SFC website.  

One of the unsung strengths of Scottish tertiary education is its ability to evolve in a measured and collaborative way. We have worked hard to ensure the transition to the Outcomes Framework and Assurance Model is an exemplar of this way of change. I would like to thank everyone involved for their contribution so far and I look forward to working together towards its successful implementation. 

Jacqui Brasted, Interim Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes, Scottish Funding Council.