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Award of University Title to Queen Margaret University College: Consultation Analysis Report

DescriptionAnalysis of responses to consultation on the award of University title to Queen Margaret University College
Official Print Publication DateJanuary 2007
Website Publication DateJanuary 19, 2007

(This paper is also available in PDF format)


1. On 3 July 2006, the Scottish Executive launched a consultation paper on the award of university title to Queen Margaret University College (QMUC). The consultation invited comments on the potential benefits/disadvantages of Queen Margaret University College's proposal that it should be awarded university title and the impact that it would have for East Lothian/Scotland, for other further and higher education institutions, and for QMUC students.

2. Generally, respondents were very supportive of the proposal to award QMUC university status with a number of benefits suggested. Out of 41 responses offering comments, only two respondents did not agree with the proposal.



3. The power to grant consent for the use of university title lies with the Privy Council under section 49 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992. In the case of a Scottish institution submitting an application for university title, the Privy Council seeks the recommendation of Scottish Ministers. QMUC submitted its formal application for University title to the Privy Council in May 2005.

4. The consultation process is designed to inform Ministers' recommendation to the Privy Council. In line with the normal process, Ministers also sought the advice of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) on whether the QMUC application satisfied the criteria for University title. QAA wrote to the Executive in October 2006 indicating that QMUC had satisfied the requirements of the criteria.

5. The consultation paper inviting views on QMUC's application was distributed to 7 main categories of interest groups, identified as key stakeholders:

  • Universities and colleges
  • Local government
  • Scottish Parliament
  • Government Departments and organisations
  • Trade unions and staff associations
  • Business sector
  • Equality and diversity groups

6. The consultation period ended on 25 September 2006 and the paper, which includes QMUC's executive summary of their application to the Privy Council, can be viewed at 46 responses were received from organisations and individuals, 41 of which offered comments on the proposal. There was considerable support for the proposal, with a number of benefits cited.

Consultation Method

7. As well as being made available on the Scottish Executive's website, 216 hard copies of the paper were distributed to key stakeholders. A full list of those consulted is at Annex A.

8. General views were sought on the proposal, and five specific questions were raised in the consultation paper for considering the potential benefits and/or disadvantages (see 'Findings' section below for further details).


9. By the end of the consultation period, 46 individuals or organisations had replied. Of these, 3 had no comments to offer on the proposal, and 2 indicated that another organisation would be submitting a response on their behalf.

10. Comments on the proposal were received from 41 respondents:

  • 2 individuals
  • 3 Local Government
  • 2 Government Departments/Organisations
  • 12 Higher Education (HE) Institutions
  • 13 Further Education (FE) Institutions
  • 5 Trade unions/staff associations
  • Universities Scotland
  • Association of Scotland's Colleges
  • 2 Others

Publication of responses

11. All responses were non-confidential and a list of the respondents is at Annex B. A hard copy of each responses is available from the Scottish Executive Information & Library Service, Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh, EH11 3XD

12. Responses can also be viewed on the 'consultations' page of the Scottish Executive website at .


13. Respondents were invited to give their views on the benefits and disadvantages of QMUC being awarded university title. Five main questions were posed. Some of the respondents dealt specifically with the individual questions and some gave a more general response. A summary of the issues raised in response to the individual questions is given below. Some of the more generalised responses, and the additional comments, are also summarised in this section.

What is your view on Queen Margaret University College 's proposal that it should be awarded university title - in particular, would there be any benefits/disadvantages?

14. Generally, the respondents were in favour of the proposal. Of the 41 who offered comments, 39 were either supportive or had no objections and 2 were not in favour of the proposal. Suggested benefits of QMUC being awarded university status included the clarification of QMUC's status as well as the enhancement of public perception of QMUC. It was suggested that the award would:

  • eliminate confusion over QMUC's status caused by the title of 'University College';
  • make it easier to distinguish between the local Further Education College and the Higher Education Institution;
  • have a positive impact on QMUC's ability to attract international students;
  • have a positive impact on QMUC's ability to attract research;
  • strengthen the HE sector in the Edinburgh area, particularly for vocational degrees; and
  • strengthen QMUC's reputation and improve recruitment and funding opportunities.

15. The two respondents that did not support the proposal questioned the need for another university in Scotland and suggested that QMUC should merge with an existing Higher Education Institute instead.

What is your view on the creation of an additional university in East Lothian / Scotland ?

16. The majority of responses were either positive or neutral. Many of the respondents stated that QMUC was, in many respects, already operating as a university, so that the award of university title would have little effect for Scotland. However, it was noted that this may have significance for East Lothian as the first university in this region.

What economic, social or other impact will the award of university title to QMUC have on East Lothian / Scotland ?

17. A summary of the responses is listed below. This includes a number of comments which mentioned benefits to the local area in particular, as a result of both the university title and the new campus planned by QMUC. One respondent, however, suggested that QMUC needed to substantially expand and another questioned the need for another university in Scotland and suggested that mergers would be preferable in order to limit the number of HEIs.

The following comments were noted:

  • establishment of Heriot-Watt as a University had a positive impact on developments in the surrounding area to the west of Edinburgh, possible QMUC could do the same for the Musselburgh/Inveresk area;
  • the award of university title could increase opportunities for economic development and promote social inclusion;
  • the new campus would benefit the local area as a 'lifelong learning hub';
  • a doubt was expressed over the impact unless accompanied by a substantial expansion;
  • award of university title to QMUC should not be linked to improved access to higher education in the area, as QMUC already provided this;
  • QMUC's focus on widening access would benefit the local community, particularly through part-time undergraduate programmes;
  • positive effect on business start up and relocation to the area, creating employment opportunities; and
  • a suggestion that there were already too many universities for Scotland's needs and that Scotland should aim instead for fewer, stronger institutions to compete on a global level.

What impact would an award of university title to QMUC have on other higher and further education institutions?

18. As also expressed in a previous question (para 16), many of the respondents felt that the university title would have little effect on other Higher and Further Education institutions as QMUC was already operating, in many respects, as a university. However, a number of specific points were also raised:

  • although certain areas of teaching at QMUC (e.g. Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism Management) overlap with other HE Institutions, the demand for such courses was sufficient not to lead to any excess supply of graduates over demand. However, this would need to be kept under review;
  • prefer to see a stronger commitment to working with Scotland's colleges;
  • 'unique contribution' made by QMUC to Scotland and Scotland's higher education sector;
  • benefit other Further and Higher Education Institutions through improved articulation and partnership working, building on what already exists between QMUC and other institutions;
  • QMUC has a different focus from other universities and the award of university title should not have a major impact on existing universities; and
  • benefits to the FE sector for the transition of their students to specialist programmes.

What impact would the award of university title have on students at QMUC?

19. Most of the respondents who commented on this question cited the benefits to students of having a degree from a fully recognised institution. The two main benefits cited were that of increased confidence/esteem for the students, and increased recognition of qualifications by employers and others, improving the employment prospects for QMUC graduates.

Other Comments

20. There were also some other more general comments expressed that did not relate directly to the core questions in the consultation paper. These included:

  • proposal supported subject to QMUC retaining current standards for courses, or meeting the qualitative and quantitive criteria required of a university;
  • comments on the benefits and timeliness of QMUC moving to a new integrated campus in a new location; and
  • one respondent questioned the need for a consultation on this matter.


21. There was clearly a broad consensus of support for the award of University title to Queen Margaret University College. The views expressed in response to the consultation paper along with the advice from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education that QMUC had met the criteria for university title helped inform the recommendation Scottish Ministers sent to the Privy Council.


22. All responses received were carefully considered and along with the advice from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education were reflected in the recommendation Scottish Ministers submitted to the Privy Council. The Privy Council wrote to Queen Margaret University College on 14 December 2006 consenting to a change of name of the College to 'Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh'. QMUC is a company incorporated under the Companies Act and as such has passed the requisite special resolution of the company members agreeing to the use of the new name. QMUC has also taken the opportunity to make a new Governance Order, which not only reflects the new name but also modernises its governance arrangements. It is anticipated that the new order will be laid before the Scottish Parliament early in 2007.

Scottish Executive, Higher Education and Learner Support Division

19 January 2007



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