Investing in a world class education system

A photograph of students at a Scottish graduation ceremony


Key points:

  • Investing over £1 billion in 2018-19 in Scotland’s universities.
  • Funding of over £600m in 2019-20 to deliver at least 116,000 full-time equivalent college places
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Learner Journey review and better aligning the education and skills system.

We have invested over £1 billion every year since 2012-13 in our universities. This has enabled us to maintain free tuition fees for eligible students, while maintaining the high quality of education and ensuring that core outcomes are met and protected. Over 2019-20 we are providing for over 128,000 funded places for eligible students in our universities.

We are providing funding of over £600m in 2019-20 to colleges to enable tens of thousands of young and adult learners to obtain recognised vocational qualifications each year, increasing routes to work and higher level study.

Following the independent review of further and higher education student support, we have committed additional investment of £21 million per year by the end of this parliamentary term for improvements to student support. We also provide Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) to young people from low income families to help them stay on in post-16 education either at school or college.

We published our STEM Education and Training Strategy in October 2017, including making the achievement of a wider range of STEM skills in our young people a priority. We are prioritising STEM subjects in our colleges and universities and higher level apprenticeships.

Our ambition is for colleges to provide Scotland with an adaptive, engaged and professionalised workforce, by focusing on developing good practice, co-ordination and partnership working across the whole education system. In responding to Scotland’s future skills needs, we recognise the importance of a college sector well placed to foster international links in support of Scotland’s national and regional skills priorities. This means supporting a sector to develop the expertise, capacity and reach to attract overseas learners to Scotland. And as part of effective business engagement, enabling colleges to partner with inward investors in Scotland to ensure we meet the skills demands of those businesses. It also means an environment where the college sector is supported to be (and which is seen to be) a world leader in skills. Working with the sector it will be important that we promote the export and knowledge exchange potential of our colleges and continue to identify how the capacity and potential for ‘college-business’ innovation can be fully realised.

We will accelerate the pace of implementation of the recommendations of the Learner Journey review to ensure the swifter alignment of the education and skills system, to better deliver on improved learner choice and greater system efficiency.

A pilot phase of the NMIS Manufacturing Skills Academy is delivering a programme of industry doctorate projects, with 24 studentships covering six universities and 11 different industry sectors awarded so far. A further call for six additional projects closed at the end of October 2019, bringing the total to 30 doctorate projects. The pilot will also deliver Continuous Professional Development (CPD) modules for upskilling and re-training industry professionals, with the first module delivered by the end of October 2019.

Key resources:

Learner Journey Review Report

STEM Strategy

Student Support Review

Scottish Government: Universities policy

Colleges Scotland

Student Awards Agency Scotland

Connected Scotland

Scottish Funding Council

Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)