A team of University of Edinburgh researchers is launching a series of events addressing major issues around the funding and future of higher education in Scotland, beginning with a one-day seminar this Wednesday (22 May) in the Scottish capital.

Professor Sheila Riddell and her colleagues at the Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity at the University of Edinburgh are working as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Future of the UK and Scotland programme of activities, which aim to inform the referendum debate and policy environment, whatever the outcome.

The seminar will look at HE funding in the context of devolution, and the independence referendum. The event is aimed at policy makers, academics and all those with an interest in higher education.

Professor Riddell says:

"There is a broad social consensus against charging tuition fees to students living in Scotland, on the grounds that higher education should be seen as a vital universal service. But, increasing universities' share of the education cake has implications for other education sectors and doesn’t necessarily contribute to the Scottish Government’s social inclusion agenda."

"We also have to realise that Scottish universities are in a global market, with international competition for staff, students and research funds. That global market inevitably increases pressures to raise student fees to the highest level which the market will bear."

Speakers at the event include: Professor David Bell of the University of Stirling, an ESRC Fellow, who will speak on the impact on funding of further devolution or independence; Professor Teresa Rees of the University of Cardiff and Professor Miriam David of the University of London, who will look at higher education funding in Wales and England, respectively; and Robin Parker, NUS Scotland. The experiences of small European states and devolved regions will also be discussed, using the ESRC-backed work of Professor Michael Keating of the University of Aberdeen.

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. More details about the ESRC’s Future of the UK and Scotland programme of activities are available at: Follow us: @ESRCUKScotland. Registration for the event is at
Period20 May 2013

Media coverage


Media coverage

  • TitleEdinburgh team launch work on Scottish HE's future
    Media name/outletEconomic and Social Research Council
    Producer/AuthorUniversity of Edinburgh
    PersonsSheila Riddell


  • higher education
  • referendum
  • funding