Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 76

Submission from the University of Edinburgh


1.  Summary and background

  1.0 The University is pleased to have the opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee's Inquiry into Students and Universities. In summary, this submission:

    — Supplements the Russell Group submission to the Inquiry— Highlights relevant activity at the University of Edinburgh— Identifies some areas of policy differentiation in Scotland

      As Committee members will be aware, the University of Edinburgh is a research-led university and amongst the largest in the UK. Like all UK Universities, the University is an autonomous legal entity, separate from government. The University's current student population is 26,000, the University employs just under 9,000 people and it's turnover in 2008-09 was in excess of £500 million .

      1.1  In addition to producing high-quality graduates and undertaking cutting-edge basic research, the University makes a significant contribution to the UK and Scottish economies. In the last five years students at the University have formed a total of 33 companies in the course of their studies and, in the last year alone, staff and students formed 26 companies. A recent piece of work[334] on the University's wider economic impact indicates that the total impacts of the University are:

    — In Edinburgh—£585 million Gross Value Added (GVA) and 14,034 fte jobs supported;

    — In Midlothian—£63 million GVA and 1,743 fte jobs supported; and

    — In Scotland—£826 million GVA and 19,580 fte jobs supported.

  1.2  The University also contributes to the economy by raising the productivity and skills of individuals through teaching. It is estimated that the lifetime impact from students graduating in one year is over £311 million in the Edinburgh economy and £406 million in the Scottish economy.

  1.3  This submission should be regarded as supplementary to the Russell Group evidence to the Inquiry. It focuses on highlighting specific University of Edinburgh initiatives and on areas where there are differing arrangements or a different context within Scotland. These areas are highlighted for the Committee's information as changes to policy and arrangements in any of the four home nations have implications in each of the others.

2.  Admissions

  2.0  It is important to understand the Scottish context in relation to admissions. Of particular relevance here are the higher rates of higher education participation in Scotland and the fact that the Highers qualification system means that many Scottish domiciled students are already made offers on the basis of known grades (circa 60% of Scottish-domiciled entrants to the University of Edinburgh).

The effectiveness of the process for admission to Higher education Institutions, including A-levels, Advanced Diplomas, apprenticeships and other university entrance tests.

2.1  The University is of the view that it offers a transparent, effective and efficient service in relation to admissions, however, it is continually seeking to further professionalise and streamline its processes. The institution's admission's policy is funded on a belief that diversity is educationally and socially desirable in society and a recognition that not all students will have had an equal opportunity to demonstrate their full academic potential. All applications are therefore considered individually and a holistic decision is made with regard to the individual's academic grades, taking into account the context in which these were achieved.

2.2  The University's challenge in relation to admissions is therefore to identify the educational and social context in which an applicant's academic qualifications have been achieved and thereby determine their potential to succeed in the intensive, research-led educational environment Edinburgh offers.

Full details of the University's admissions policy is made publicly available to be viewed by applicants and for wider scrutiny at

  2.3  The University of Edinburgh uses the UKCAT entrance test in relation to admittance into its undergraduate MBChB medicine programme. As part of the culture of ongoing review of admissions processes and the context of a high applications-places ratio the University is constantly looking to identify reliable and appropriate means by which to differentiate between well qualified students. The use of UKCAT is one example of this

The implementation and success of widening participation initiatives, and the impact of the current funding regime on these objectives.

  2.4  The Committee's attention is drawn to the various national and regional agreements in place in Scotland. The Scottish Widening Access Partnership (SWAP) is a partnership between the HEIs and colleges in Scotland focused on promoting access to higher education amongst mature students. Supported by the Scottish Funding Council, the programmes has now been running for 21 years. Similarly access programmes aimed at school leavers, such as the Lothian Equal Access Programmes for Schools (LEAPS) in which the University of Edinburgh participates, has been running for some 17 years.

2.5  Unlike compact agreements, these partnership schemes provide multiple exit routes for students to pursue higher education study at any of the participating institution.

  2.6  The University of Edinburgh Pathways to the Professions scheme is outlined briefly in the Russell Group submission. This scheme is intended to encourage progression by under-represented school students into professional courses in Medicine, Vet Medicine, Law and Architecture and subsequently into the professions themselves.

  2.7  Through the project the University works with professional bodies, state schools and families. The programme of activity was initiated and developed from 2001-02 across all 46 state schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians and over 600 school students have registered to date. The project was evaluated at the end of its first two years of operation and was judged to be successful (see Russell Group submission for further details), attracting continuation funding. It has recently been selected by Universities UK as a case study of best practice for their publication From the Margins to the Mainstream. Initially funded by the Sutton Trust, the project is now embedded and funded by the University and the Law strand of the project has recently been rolled out to five universities in England through a 1.25 million project funded by the Sutton Trust and the College of Law.

  2.8  Pathways to the Professions was selected as an international example of best practice by the European Access Network and the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation and showcased at their joint conference in Toronto in April 2008.

The role of the Government in developing and promoting fair access and admissions policies for the UK Higher Education Sector.

  2.9  The University of Edinburgh shares the position outlined in the Russell Group submission to the Inquiry. As autonomous institutions, admissions policies remain a matter for individual HEI's. The University believes that transparency and openness are prerequisites to such policies functioning effectively under these arrangements.

3.  The balance between teaching and research

3.0  The University supports the Russell Group evidence to the effect that there is a positive correlation between research excellence and student experience in contrast to any tension which might be inferred from the phrasing used in the call for evidence. In the period since the initial Research Assessment Exercise, the University of Edinburgh has undertaken a number of actions which reflect the institution's ongoing commitment to the highest standards in learning and teaching alongside excellence in research.

3.1  Selected examples of such initiatives include:

    — The creation of personal chairs in student learning in recognition of an individual's

    — contribution to the advancement of knowledge and understanding or its creative or professional application in the field of learning at the highest level;

    — outstanding achievement in contribution to student earning as evidenced in peer-reviewable outputs including excellence in practice in the field;

    — capacity for academic leadership, including the ability to influence, stimulate and inspire others.

    — Staff awards in recognition of contribution to learning and teaching, including the prestigious Chancellor's Award, awarded to an individual who has enhanced the teaching reputation of the University, through a significant contribution to improving or invigorating of student learning at any level.

    — Funded initiatives in support of teaching innovation, including funding for e-learning initiatives.

    — Voluntary participation in the National Student Survey (not compulsory for Scottish HEIs).

December 2008

334   University of Edinburgh-Economic Impact 2008 -Baseline Report. Back

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