Universities and Scotland Contents


Universities in Scotland

1.Scotland has 19 universities,1 five of which are in the top 250 in the world: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews.2 In the 2017–18 academic year, there were 230,940 students studying in Scottish universities.3 Typically, the higher education sector in Scotland survives on a combination of international student fees, research grants and funding from the UK and Scottish Governments. This inquiry comes during a period of intense pressure for the sector. Scotland’s universities face a “perfect storm”4 as long-term budgetary challenges combine with the effects of covid-19 and the UK’s departure from the EU. The pandemic has necessitated significant interventions by both the UK and Scottish Governments to support research, institutions and students, but questions remain over whether it will be enough.

2.This Report examines the challenges and opportunities faced by Scottish universities (and their students and research arms) as the sector adjusts to the pandemic and life outside the EU, and accesses what further action is needed by the UK and Scottish Governments. This Report breaks down those challenges and opportunities into three key areas: (i) the finances of Scottish universities (Chapter 3), (ii) student welfare, experience and opportunities (Chapter 4), and (iii) academic research by Scottish universities (Chapter 5).

Our inquiry

3.We launched our inquiry, Universities and Scotland, on 5 August 2020 and published a call for written evidence to address the following terms of reference:

i)The scale and nature of challenges and opportunities around funding for Scottish universities including funding models, deficits, overseas and EU students’ fees;

ii)How Scottish university research fits in with UK university research; and

iii)UK Government policy and how it effects universities, students, employees and research in Scotland.

4.As part of the inquiry we held seven public oral evidence sessions, including with Ministers from both the UK and Scottish Governments, and held two private informal roundtables, one with students and one with academics. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our inquiry—whether in person or in writing—especially during what has been such challenging period for the sector.

1 Audit Scotland, Finances of Scottish universities, September 2019, p 4

2 Times Higher Education, ‘World University Rankings 2021’, accessed 27 April 2021; a factual correction was made to this sentence of the Report on 2 June 2021

3 Audit Scotland, Finances of Scottish universities, September 2019, p 4

4 Q3

Published: 28 May 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement