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Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Act 2016

Summary and Background

3.The Act makes provision to improve and modernise aspects of the governance of higher education institutions (HEIs). The Act contains provision covering four areas:

  • Appointment of the senior lay member of the governing body within an HEI: A requirement is placed on each HEI to appoint a senior lay member of the governing body in accordance with a two stage process comprising an advertisement, application and selection stage followed by an election stage. Each HEI is also required to pay, at the request of the senior lay member, reasonable remuneration and allowances for undertaking the role of senior lay member. In addition, the Bill makes provision about the rules that a governing body may make about how such a senior lay member may resign or be removed from that office.

  • Membership of the governing body within an HEI: A requirement is placed on each HEI to ensure that the membership of its governing body includes a senior lay member appointed in accordance with the process stipulated in sections 1 to 8 of the Act; two members who are directly elected from the HEI’s staff; one member nominated by a trade union from among the academic staff; one member nominated by a trade union from among the support staff; and two student members nominated by a students’ association of the HEI. In addition, the Bill makes provision about the rules that a governing body may make about how the members of the governing body may resign or be removed from that governing body (including, as mentioned above, the senior lay member).

  • Composition of an HEI’s academic board: A requirement is placed on HEIs to ensure that elected members comprise more than 50% of the total membership of the academic board. Overall, at least 10% of the academic board must be made up of elected student members, subject to the rule that no more than 30 student members are required. All staff and student board members appointed under the Act’s election process for staff and students (which does not include members appointed ex officio) must be elected by the constituency they represent.

  • Academic freedom: Section 26 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005, which makes provision for the protection of academic freedom by post-16 education bodies, is replaced with a new section. The new section strengthens the obligation on post-16 education bodies. It requires that such bodies must aim to uphold, so far as the body considers reasonable, the academic freedom of persons engaged in teaching, the provision of learning or research at the body. It also requires that such bodies must aim to ensure, so far as the body considers reasonable, that appointments held or sought and entitlements or privileges enjoyed by such persons are not adversely affected by the exercise of academic freedom of those engaged in teaching, the provision of learning or research at the body. The new section also expands the definition of academic freedom to clarify that it includes the freedom to develop and advance new ideas or innovative proposals.

4.Throughout these Explanatory Notes various terms and abbreviations are used; the most important are as follows:

  • “the 1992 Act” means the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992;

  • “the 2005 Act” means the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005;

  • “academic board” means the body within the HEI which is charged with dealing with and making decisions on academic and research matters; some HEIs refer to the academic board as the Senate;

  • “designated institution” means an institution designated under section 44 of the 1992 Act;

  • “HEI” means an institution which is a university or designated institution (with the exception of the Open University), and which is listed in schedule 2 to the 2005 Act; these institutions are institutions based in Scotland which provide higher education within the meaning of section 38 of the 1992 Act and which are eligible for funding from the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council;

  • “post-16 education body” means a body listed in schedule 2 to the 2005 Act and a college that is assigned to a regional strategic body under section 7C of the 2005 Act;

  • Universities (Scotland) Acts” means the Universities (Scotland) Acts of 1858, 1889, 1922, 1932 and 1966.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Scottish Executive department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills

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