Next Generation Partners

Education in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern’s wide-ranging offering runs the gamut of contentious and non-contentious issues across the public and private primary, secondary and higher education sectors with particular expertise in additional support needs tribunal work. Its impressive and varied client roster includes some of Scotland’s largest universities as well as local authorities, educational bodies and independent schools. Practice head Alun Thomas routinely advises universities on contractual disputes and provides mediation assistance, while Catriona Watt regularly advises independent schools on governance and regulatory matters, and Audrey Cameron is a key contact for education sector mergers.

Practice head(s):

Alun Thomas

Other key lawyers:

Catriona Watt; Audrey Cameron


‘The sheer breadth of knowledge and expertise makes AS unique in Scotland.’

‘They are able to cover every area of work that we require, which means that we can be sure that we have a consistent and joined-up approach. This is essential for audit and other purposes.’

‘Personal and quick service, backed up by expert but practical advice.’

Key clients

University of St Andrews

University of Edinburgh

University of Strathclyde

University of the Highlands and Islands

University of West of Scotland

Queen Margaret University

Ayrshire College

Edinburgh College

Glasgow Clyde College

New College Lanarkshire

North Highland College

Shetland UHI

South Lanarkshire College

West College Scotland

Inverness College

Fettes College

St Leonards School


Merchiston Castle School

Erskine Stewarts Melville College

Cargilfield Prep School

Belhaven School

Kelvinside Academy

Fairview International School

My Online Schooling Limited

Universities Scotland

APUC (The Association for Procurement for Universities and Colleges)

Skills Development Scotland

College Development Network

City of Edinburgh Council

Midlothian Council

Fife Council

West Lothian Council

Falkirk Council

North Lanarkshire Council

Work highlights

  • Assisting education sector clients with the creation of collaborations and research partnerships with other institutions across the UK and the rest of the world, including IP, copyright and immigration law matters.
  • Continues to advise independent schools, such as Gordonstoun, on matters around and representation at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry alongside gender reassignment matters as well as family and parent conflicts.
  • Advising local authorities, including Falkirk Council and West Lothian Council, on claims and references relating to pupils with additional support needs (ASN).

Brodies LLP

Praised for its ‘deep knowledge of the sector’, Brodies LLP's education practice counts several of Scotland’s leading universities among its clients, which reflects its particular strength in the higher education sector. The team receives frequent instructions on a wide range of sector-specific work, including employment, governance and sensitive student matters. Brenda Scott and Niall McLean jointly head the team; Scott frequently handles transactional and commercial work and McLean receives regular instructions on governance and student matters. Lynne Marr specialises in employment law and acts for higher education clients and independent schools. Associate Kirstyn Burke is another key member of the team.

Practice head(s):

Brenda Scott; Niall McLean

Other key lawyers:

Kirstyn Burke; Lynne Marr


‘Great knowledge of the HEI sector. Responsive and reactive – always. They are almost an extension of our own in-house team. They understand our business and are able to provide legal advice in context.’

‘Niall McLean and Kirstyn Burke – both of these individuals are outstanding and a pleasure to work with. They are pragmatic, responsive and understand the HEI sector tremendously well.’

‘Deep understanding of the sector combined with a broad range of experience within the team.’

‘Niall McLean is a standout – extremely responsive and knowledgeable about the sector and gives clear and strategic advice.’

Key clients

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Queen Margaret University (QMU)

University of Dundee

University of Edinburgh

University of Aberdeen

London Universities Procurement Consortium (LUPC)

Newbattle Abbey College

Stirling, Falkirk and Argyll and Bute Councils

Inverness College

Work highlights

  • Retained by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the national qualifications body in Scotland, as its sole supplier of legal services. Recent work includes advice on the impacts of Covid-19 and on proposed changes to the framework for Scottish qualifications made by the independent Muir Report that there should be a new education agency to replace SQA.
  • Advising the University of Edinburgh on a wide range of employment, governance and student issues.
  • Assisting the University of Dundee with student issues.

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Leveraging the firm's wider charity, employment, property and IP expertise, Shepherd and Wedderburn is best known for its higher education sector work, providing leading universities and independent schools with advice on the full range of sector-specific matters. Employment law and discrimination tribunals are particular areas of strength, with Neil Maclean being the key contact here. Malcolm Rust is noted for his charity law expertise and advises on governance and constitutional matters, while Joanna Boag-Thomson specialises in IP law. Scott Ritchie takes point on property-related matters, Keir Willox is a key contact for sector-specific corporate work and Matt Phillip is routinely called upon to assist with dispute resolution matters.

Practice head(s):

Neil Maclean; Malcolm Rust; Joanna Boag-Thomson; Keir Willox; Matt Phillip

Other key lawyers:

Scott Ritchie

Key clients

The University of Glasgow

Work highlights

Burness Paull LLP

Burness Paull LLP acts for a wide range of education sector clients, including governmental bodies, local authorities and higher education institutions, both Scottish and international. Much of its advisory work revolves around transactional matters, administrative and public law as well as employment law.  Hazel Moffat is highly regarded for her expertise in public law and regulatory matters, while Scott Peterkin advises on transactional matters and real estate law.

Other key lawyers:

Hazel Moffat; Scott Peterkin


‘Their experience of the public sector and education is invaluable.’

‘They are good to work with and provide clear, easy-to-understand advice at all times and go above and beyond.’

There are many strengths that make this practice excellent to work with: the partner we deal with is contactable at all times and if on holiday, they make sure another partner in the firm is fully briefed; communication is good; and the partners are friendly and very approachable.

Key clients

Universities Scotland

Learning Curve (NE) Group Limited

University of St Andrews

Robert Gordon’s College

North East Scotland College

Scottish Funding Council

University of the West of Scotland

Harlow College

The UNITE UK student Accommodation Fund

Association of Certified Chartered Accountants

Work highlights

  • Providing Harlow College with general employment advice, advice on immigration and nationality in respect of staff and students, data protection advice, general pensions advice specific to schemes operating within the FE sector and advice in relation to disputes and TUPE transfers.
  • Advising on high-value infrastructure projects for Hub West Scotland Limited, a private sector development company, who works in partnership with the education sector in the west of Scotland.
  • Advising the University of the West of Scotland on spin-outs of commercial ventures, including contract, commercial and intellectual property law.


CMS' full-service education team assists major Scottish universities as well as other public and private sector clients with a wide range of education-related issues. With particular strength in real estate, employment and charity law, the team is frequently instructed to act on cross-border matters, which are handled in cooperation with its London office. Under the leadership of Carina Healy (dual qualified in Scots and English law), the team is also well placed to assist clients in the higher education sector with IP and commercial matters. Darina Kerr is the key name for real estate and property law.

Practice head(s):

Carina Healy

Other key lawyers:

Darina Kerr


‘I have worked with this team for over 4 years on a range of interrelated, complex matters. They provide great confidence and assurance for stakeholders.’

‘They are thorough, calm and innovative in supporting us, addressing highly complex issues involving a large number of stakeholders in a high-profile environment. The team provides great support with a detailed and reasoned approach. Tenacious!’

‘The CMS team works well together, works well with the client and represents us to a high standard of professionalism in our contractual negotiations.’

Key clients

University College London

University of Glasgow

University of Sheffield

University of St Andrews

Queen Mary, University of London

Heriot-Watt University

Heriot Watt Services Limited (Oriam) (HWS)

University of Dundee

East Renfrewshire Council

The Moray Council

Argyll & Bute Council

City of Edinburgh Council

Scottish Borders Council

Hub East Central Scotland Limited

ILT Education

Trill Impact AB

Brighteye Ventures

Work highlights

  • Continues to advise UCL on high-profile academic research collaborations, including providing extensive back office support for the research contracts on over 300 projects, including many Covid-19 research collaborations.
  • Appointed by Hub East Central Scotland Limited in respect of three new projects worth over £196m. These projects include the £110m development of the Dunfermline Learning Campus and the £85m replacement of Perth High School.
  • Advised University of Sheffield on a high-value disposal of patents and know-how in the field of semiconductor technology to one of the world’s largest social media platforms.

Thorntons Law LLP

Thorntons Law LLP is well placed to assist clients, many of which stem from the higher education sector, on governance issues, regulatory compliance and academic appeals. Corporate and commercial law specialist Robbie Francis heads the team and, alongside handling governance issues, is frequently instructed to advise on mergers, restructurings and funding issues. Noele McClelland is an employment law specialist with an emphasis on dispute resolution and reputation management, while Debbie Fellows has particular expertise in the areas of contentious employment law and discrimination cases. The team has a strong presence in Dundee.

Practice head(s):

Robbie Francis

Other key lawyers:

Debbie Fellows; Noele McClelland


‘Thorntons invests the time and energy to understand the business and the people within it. It is not simply a transactional service, there is a depth of innovation and creativity within the team that provides strong solution-focused partnership working. Thorntons is proactive in approach, whether this is horizon scanning or providing tailored solutions through workshops to local or national issues.’

‘Thorntons has the skills and resources at their disposal to comprehensively address all our needs. They are an integral part of our team.’

‘Robbie Francis is professional and personable.’

Key clients

Abertay University

University of Stirling

University of the Highlands & Islands

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow School of Art

Robert Gordon University

University of St Andrews

University of Dundee

The James Hutton Institute

City of Glasgow College

Dundee & Angus College

Perth College

Borders College

Inverness College

Colleges Scotland

The High School of Dundee

Schools Closure Review Panel

Work highlights

  • Advised the Glasgow School of Art on an employment tribunal claim by a former employee alleging unfair dismissal after making alleged protected disclosures.
  • Advised the University of St Andrews on the registration of their trademarks in multiple territories, and addressing repeated infringement of its registered and unregistered trademarks around the world.
  • Advised the University of Stirling on a number of agreements with national governing bodies for various sports and sporting organisations.

Morton Fraser MacRoberts

With a diverse client roster including academic institutions, state and private schools alongside other entities in the education sector, Morton Fraser MacRoberts' education team (the result of the late-2023 merger between Morton Fraser and MacRoberts LLP) advises on a wide range of matters, such as policy drafting, student equality issues and parental complaints. David Walker leads the team. He is supported by David Hossack, an experienced employment lawyer and mediator, who advises on reputational issues and employment matters, and Adrian Bell, who advises educational institutions on corporate governance and constitutional issues. Recently promoted partner Sarah Gilzean is another key member of the team. Following the merger, the practice gained the expertise of David Gourlay, Jennifer McKay, Rod Munro, Valerie Armstrong-Surgenor, Amina Amin and Agne Zasinaite.

Practice head(s):

David Walker

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Gilzean; David Hossack; Adrian Bell; David Gourlay; Jennifer McKay; Rod Munro; Valerie Armstrong-Surgenor; Amina Amin; Agne Zasinaite


‘Morton Fraser is extremely approachable and knowledgeable in immigration law.’

‘We are fortunate to have the expertise of Sarah Gilzean as our lawyer. Her knowledge of our business has been built over the years, and her advice tailored appropriately. She has always presented clear and straightforward advice and, where appropriate, reassurance, and we greatly value her excellent relationship with the school.’

‘Morton Fraser has an excellent knowledge and understanding of the sector.’

Key clients


Robert Gordons College

George Heriots School

Harmeny Education Trust limited

George Watsons College

Dollar Academy

Work highlights

Pinsent Masons LLP

Embedded in its UK-wide network of offices, Pinsent Masons LLP routinely advises higher education institutions across the UK on regulatory matters, data sharing, patent law and construction law. The last-mentioned segment is a key area of expertise for the team as evidenced by its solid track record advising on multiple large-scale student accommodation construction projects. This type of work is routinely led by infrastructure and projects expert Chris Owens. Chris Martin leads the overall team, while Joanne McIntosh is the key contact for contractual and commercial matters.

Practice head(s):

Chris Martin

Other key lawyers:

Chris Owens; Joanne McIntosh


‘Good knowledge across the higher education sector. Good knowledge of our own business. Collaborated well with our team members.’

‘Chris Martin knows our business well and has sound knowledge of the HEI sector across the UK.’

Key clients

University of Edinburgh


Roslin Institute

University of Birmingham

Coventry University

University of Sussex

University of Lincoln

Work highlights

  • Advised the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh on a range of strategic research and development issues as well as IP commercialisation matters.
  • Advised the University of Sussex on the West Slope student residence scheme, which will provide on-campus student accommodation, a learning centre, a health and wellbeing centre, a supermarket and cafes.
  • Advised Smart Data Foundry on its arrangements with its key stakeholder, the University of Edinburgh, under which it will receive circa £20m of funding, and on the development of a suite of data sharing and data services customer contracts.