Statement in response to media release from the Highlands and Islands Students' Association

Garry Coutts, Chair of the University of the Highlands and Islands Court, said:

"I have a lot of sympathy with the student position, and I am glad they have spoken out so passionately.

"They are right - we need to ensure that the experience of all of our students is personalised, supported and is the highest quality as possible.

"This is a time of great uncertainty. Our role, as a university partnership of colleges and research institutions, is to support our communities in these exceptional circumstances. I know that the senior managers across our university partnership, led by Professor Crichton Lang, our Principal and Vice-Chancellor, are committed to a wide programme of work to help us adapt to meet the immediate needs of our students and our region during these difficult times. At the same time, we must also continue the ongoing essential work to develop our partnership for the future by streamlining our business processes and simplifying our decision making to ensure that maximum resource is focused on our students, researchers and the wider community we support, who rely on our university partnership.

"Any alterations to the structure of our partnership, as HISA suggests, would require changes to legislation, the convergence of multiple management systems and the wholesale review of terms and conditions of service for over 3000 staff. This would be complex and could take up a lot of staff time, during a period where our staff priorities must be focused elsewhere - working tirelessly to support existing students completing their courses and to prepare for our students returning and joining us to study in September.

"But the vision set out by HISA is one that everyone on the university court and the boards of management across the partnership need to consider and work to deliver to enable the University of the Highlands and Islands to fully play its part in post Covid-19 economic regeneration. I hope my fellow governors will rise to the challenge with the same passion, imagination and creativity our students have shown.”