By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has welcomed evidence from university principals who appeared in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee today, after they rebutted No campaign claims that uncertainty was damaging the sector.
Giving evidence today, a number of experts made clear that the prospect of independence had not deterred investment in research in Scotland, and that Scotland is an increasingly attractive destination for talent in the education field – despite the No campaign’s continued assertions that the referendum could lead to ‘uncertainty’.
Countering claims by opponents of independence that the referendum was deterring researchers from coming to Scotland, MSPs on the committee were told that the referendum was providing Scotland with a greater international profile with more researchers now saying “I wish I worked in Scotland”.
Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal of Robert Gordon University, told the Committee that Scotland could expect research funding “equal to or better than what is available now”. He also paid tribute to the “fairly stable setting” of Scottish higher education, and pointed out that there was no guarantee of certainty in research funding in the aftermath of a No vote.
Queen Margaret University Principal, Professor Petra Wend, rejected suggestions that there was uncertainty around the referendum – and pointed out that researchers are increasingly attracted to Scotland as it is “more sympathetic to the value of education”.
Challenging media reports which suggest the referendum is causing problems, Professor Wend said: “There have been anecdotes in the papers that Scotland does not attract talent any more from other countries because researchers are worried about the future in terms of the EU and research funding and so on. That does not seem to be the case.
“I’ve asked around other universities as well and, including my own university, we have attracted really excellent researchers from Ireland and England who made the positive choice to come to Scotland.
“I’ve seen an influx of researchers coming to Scotland, and anecdotally when I speak to English researchers increasingly I hear: ‘I wish I worked in Scotland’.
“They feel that the Scottish landscape in terms of higher education is more sympathetic to the value of education to a country.”
Both Professor von Prondzynski and Professor Wend also confirmed that their major concern was uncertainty created by the prospect of the UK Government’s in/out referendum on the EU.
Commenting, SNP MSP Clare Adamson, who sits on the Committee said:
“This is further expert evidence which completely undermines Project Fear’s scare stories about the referendum and education in Scotland.
“It was fantastic to hear from people of the calibre of Professor von Prondzynski and Professor Wend of the strength of Scotland’s education sector –and that the referendum has only increased our fantastic international profile.
“A Yes vote will enable Scotland to take action to further improve our education system, and make Scotland an even more attractive destination for research investment– building on our excellent international reputation.”
Education has become a battle ground in the referendum campaign. Last year the anti-independence Better Together campaign launched an academic offshoot called ‘Academics Together’. The group claimed independence could jeopardise scientific breakthroughs and curtail the careers of young scientists.
In reponse, the Yes campaign launched Academics for Yes. The Yes group warned a No vote could result in funding cuts, and said UKIP success in this year’s European Parliament elections could lead to a loss of European funding for research.