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Scottish government to amend university governance bill

Ministerial control of universities to be reduced.

Plans to minimise the risk of universities in Scotland losing their charitable status have been outlined by Scottish government. The concession, published on 12 January, comes ahead of a debate on the higher education (governance) bill that is due to be held in the Scottish Parliament on 14 January. The government has also promised to help allay fears about elected chairmen and chairwomen of governing bodies, by clarifying how candidates would be shortlisted and to remove the power of ministers to set their remuneration.

The government made the compromise in response to recommendations made by the Scottish Parliament’s education and culture committee. It says it would like to see many of the proposed ministerial regulation–making powers reduced. University leaders had expressed concern that the Office for National Statistics could reclassify universities as public entities, if the ministerial regulation-making powers were retained. This would have resulted in the loss of charitable status. The document affirms that the government is “clear that [universities] are autonomous bodies”. It adds that the government is “aware of how important charitable status” is to universities and affirms that any provisions which may jeopardise this should be amended or removed. However it notes that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has “raised no significant concerns” so far.

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