7.1 Between them, our report, and that of the National Committee, set out a major programme of change for higher education over the next 20 years. Our vision for the future is clear. Although our outlook has been to the long term, our detailed recommendations necessarily focus on the first steps towards that vision. We hope that the legacy of our work will be a higher education system which is well-placed to develop and respond as new challenges and circumstances arise, including those which we cannot foresee from the perspective of 1997.

7.2 The National Committee report details the recommendations it, and we, wish to make for the whole of the UK. This chapter of our report focuses on our specifically Scottish recommendations, although it must be read in conjunction with the National Committee's recommendations.

7.3 We have addressed our recommendations to those who should, in our view, be responsible for taking them forward. Where it is possible to set a specific timescale for the necessary action, we have done so. Some of our recommendations require organisations to undertake substantial development work before they can be implemented, and some are of less immediate urgency than others. We are conscious of the need not to overload organisations with too many tasks at once: it is often better to focus energy and attention on the most important and urgent work, but that does not mean that our recommendations for the medium and longer term can be ignored. Recommendations which we have described as for implementation 'over the medium term' are those which should generally be implemented within the next three to five years, although work in preparation for that may well need to start immediately. Those recommendations which we suggest should be implemented 'over the long term' are those which require even more substantial preparatory work or the prior implementation of other recommendations before they can be put into effect. Most of them are unlikely to be fully implemented in less than five years.

7.4 The Scottish recommendations are addressed to a wide range of bodies who have varying responsibilities in relation to higher education. Table 7.1 shows the allocation.

7.5 We give below some guidance on the priorities for action in terms of indicating those issues which we believe should be tackled immediately.

The National Committee has identified that there is an immediate short term problem with the funding of higher education. It seeks primary legislation on its proposals for student financing as a matter of priority in time to enable additional resources to flow to higher education in 1998/99. In Chapter 6 we have identified some important additional issues for the Secretary of State for Scotland arising from the National Committee's funding recommendations and we suggest that these will require urgent attention to ensure that mechanisms are in place by 1998.

Management and governance
Both Committees have concluded that institutions need to take urgent action too, to make sure that they make the best possible use of the available resources. They must secure appropriate management and cost information systems to support this as quickly as possible. Work by institutions on developing appropriate benchmarks, and our proposals to the higher education funding council in Scotland to establish a benchmarking unit, should be acted upon as soon as possible.

7.8 We wish to enable the further and higher education sectors to maximise the opportunities open to them for synergy and articulation in early course. We suggest that the Secretary of State for Scotland should enact the appropriate legislation to create two funding councils as a matter of urgency.

Quality and standards
Institutions must work continually to improve the quality of teaching and they must approach the mutual assurance of standards with real commitment. The proposed changes which the National Committee is recommending to existing quality assurance processes will work best within a UK-wide framework and the immediate requirement in Scotland is that the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and the new Quality Assurance Agency should begin negotiations about how the funding council can be enabled to contract with the Agency as soon as possible.

Participation rates in higher education in Scotland are 10 per cent higher than the UK average and projected to continue to increase, albeit more modestly than in the past in the case of those under the age of 21. We have suggested that a revitalised new-style 360-credit point Bachelors degree should be developed by higher education institutions in Scotland to more appropriately meet the demand from students and employers. Higher education institutions, together with employers and professional bodies should begin work now on devising curricula for the new-style Bachelors degree programmes. The funding council should review its funding methodology with a view to encouraging such developments.

Implementation of the Higher Still Reforms, which are likely, when brought to fruition, to have a profound effect upon demand for higher education in Scotland and the higher education curriculum itself, have been postponed until 1999. In our report we have identified pressing reasons why the school and higher education curricula need to be more closely aligned. We urge all those with an interest - including institutions and their representative bodies, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Scottish Consultative Committee on Credit and Access, The Scottish Office Education and Industry Department and the Association of Directors of Education - to give urgent consideration to the interface between school and higher education studies.

We know, from all the contacts we have had in our work, that the value and importance of higher education is widely recognised. We also know that those within higher education are committed to its well-being and are willing to embrace change. If all that good will, energy and professionalism can be focused on the developments proposed in this report, we are convinced that Scottish and UK higher education will match the best in the world over the next 20 years.