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The Beginnings of the SCQF Partnership

Sir Andrew Cubie CBE
Sir Andrew Cubie CBE

To celebrate 20 years of the SCQF, our former Chair and the first Chair of the SCQF Partnership, Sir Andrew Cubie CBE reflects on the educational priorities that led to establishing the SCQF back in 2001 and why these are still valid today.

Being invited to write a reflective article always contains dangers! How good is your memory and source material and in consequence your objectivity as you meander through your recollections? With these cautions let me as the first Chair of the SCQFP offer these thoughts.

In the aftermath of the “Cubie Committee” report being presented to the Scottish Executive in 1999, which recommended the abolition of student tuition fees in Scotland and the creation of a Scottish Graduate Endowment Fund to which all graduates would contribute once they began to earn in excess of £25,000 per annum, I was much identified with future educational thinking.

Having failed my 11+ I had long talked of the need for respect to be given both to vocational and academic qualifications. “Parity of esteem” was one of my mantras although I was often told it was unrealistic. So, when I was approached to become involved in formalising a Scottish framework to blend academic and vocational qualifications I could hardly say no. As I recall it, there was no real debate about whether we needed a single framework as opposed to multiple. After all I came from an employer perspective, having also at the time just been the Chairman of CBI Scotland. Employers in Scotland needed better guidance about qualifications as most of us then clung to a model of our own experience, predictably well out of date!

Scotland in the years before 2001 had been innovative in the ways in which it had sought to develop framework structures and so the land was fertile for the development of a single Scottish framework. Those who had offered early leadership were QAA Scotland, SQA and Universities Scotland. The backing of the Scottish Executive was also essential. My involvement from the employers’ perspective was also helpful. Whilst the assumption was perhaps easily made that any framework would be government led and controlled, (there were examples around the world where this was so), the view of others and certainly of me was that this initiative had to be led by wider society.

From there it was an easy step to create a company limited by guarantee with charitable status and membership drawn from supporting organisations.

The Board which I chaired reflected that membership with the Scottish Executive sending, after much debate, an observer. These arrangements were finally established over a lunch which I hosted in the Oloroso Restaurant in Edinburgh, which then amongst us became known as the “Oloroso Declaration”. Sadly, we did not sign a serviette to become the first artefact of SCQFP! I am in great debt to my then, and subsequent, Board colleagues.

We were clear from the outset that the Framework should be all embracing if possible, but that not all learning need necessarily be included. Our early struggles were around when and how to incorporate prior and/or informal learning and the Framework today is testament to lots of debate then. That was also true in regard to how we related to other National frameworks. There was, however, significant international interest in what we were creating. In due time there is no doubt that both the European and Asiatic Frameworks owe much to the SCQF. Speaking abroad from time to time about our work it was gratifying to hear plaudits for Scotland’s leadership.

However, none of this would have come about without Aileen Ponton as the Founding Director of SCQFP. She was an inspired appointment. In many ways she is synonymous with SCQF and certainly and rightly the public face of it. She is a global leader and authority about frameworks. For me it has been a singular privilege to work closely with Aileen and her dedicated and knowledgeable team over the last 20 years.

All that remains for me to say is that after a most dynamic and influential first 20 years, I trust that the next 20 years and beyond of SCQF will be equally valuable to the learners and employers of Scotland.

Andrew Cubie

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