Yesterday the Scottish Funding Council released their university outcome agreement guidance for 2013/14’s agreements. You can find it on the SFC’s website, here. Similar guidance for colleges is expected shortly.
What does this mean for NUS Scotland, and students?
The introduction of outcome agreements is an amazing win for us all. We’ve all been working hard over the past year to make them reality, and we’re delighted to see the SFC bringing them in. They were one of the central recommendations of our research report, and it really does show that the message of our current priority campaign, Unlocking Scotland’s Potential, is starting to get through. It really does prove just how much impact we can have, and how influential we are when it comes to setting the agenda.
What’s in the guidance?
In our opinion the three greatest parts of the guidance, and expectations on the part of the universities, are:
Improved access of students from the most deprived backgrounds, and increasing activity to ensure this
Improving the retention of all students, and ensuring that any gap between of all and most deprived students gets closed
Greater articulation of higher education students from colleges. While this is the national level stuff we all want to see, it’ll be up to individual universities, through their OA as to how they achieve this.
These are the three areas we really highlighted in Unlocking Scotland’s Potential, and again it’s great to see them being adopted by the SFC, and used as the three headline measures of outcomes.
What happens next?
The guidance sets out the timeline for the OA process (see page 17 for more details). The bits of OA’s that are most important to students starts to get negotiated between the SFC and universities in December.
It is now crucial that we show that the public & political will is there for universities to set themselves strong ambitions for improvement in the area of widening access, which is why it is crucial that we get as many people signing up to the Unlocking Scotland’s Potential campaign – www.unlockscotlandspotential.org .
Those sign-ups will also be crucial in making sure that the government legislates on widening access to make sure that these Outcome Agreements have a basis in law and that every university has a responsibility to widen access.
Engaging students in the process
Earlier this year we made it clear to the SFC that we didn’t think that universities were taking the need to properly and really engage with students’ associations on outcome agreements. Again, the SFC have fully taken our advice and feedback on board, and make it explicit to universities that students need to be properly involved during the entire OA process. Universities will need to provide a detailed statement on how this has been achieved, as part of the OA.
At the start of December, we will be holding a more in-depth workshop session on student involvement in outcome agreements at the start of December. We’ll be in touch with more details on this nearer the time.
Finally, if you have any questions on this, or want to discuss it more, don’t hesitate in getting in touch with us.