Education in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern's multi-disciplinary team, led by Alun Thomas , remains a popular choice for many of Scotland's leading universities and colleges that require assistance with regulatory and governance matters, development projects as well as employment, safeguarding and immigration issues, including litigation. Working in the Additional Support Needs Tribunal is another key area of expertise.

Practice head(s):

Alun Thomas

Other key lawyers:

Fiona Killen; Catriona Watt; Jonathan Guy; Barry Nichol; Audrey Cameron; Andrew Brown

Key clients

The University of Edinburgh

University of St Andrews

University of the Highlands and Islands

Glasgow Caledonian University

University of the West of Scotland (UWS)

Edinburgh Napier University

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Ayrshire College

City of Glasgow College

Edinburgh College

Fife College

Glasgow Clyde College

Work highlights

  • Advising the local authority on the provision of further education and a potential merger between Shetland College and NAFC Marine Centre.
  • Advising the Malaysian-based education client on the purchase of the Beaconhurst Grange School in Stirling which  closed and entered administration in July 2018. This includes advice on the transaction including charity law, commercial, education and governance issues.
  • Advised the client on proposals for further constitutional and structural change.
  • Provides advice on regulatory issues, its potential sale and eventual closure.
  • Assisted the client with the purchase of a £4.2m property in November 2018 from Shepherd Offshore as part of the college’s plan to build a new super campus combining a brand new college campus and secondary school in a joint venture with Fife Council.

Brodies LLP

With a fine reputation for its broad education sector offering, Brodies LLP's 'responsive' team regularly advises higher and further education sector clients as well as local authorities and government agencies on various governance structures, including new governance arrangements and sensitive reputational matters, sector-specific employment, immigration and corporate issues. Led by the 'fantasticBrenda Scott, the group also receives frequent instructions on various contentious and non-contentious student matters.

Practice head(s):

Brenda Scott

Other key lawyers:

Will McIntosh; Christine O’Neill; Jackie McGuire; Lynne Marr; Joyce Cullen; Brenda Scott

Testimonials

Works hard to understand the client’s issues and concerns and contextualises its advice and support accordingly.

Key clients

Perth and Kinross Council

Inverness College

Scottish Funding Council (SFC)

Queen Margaret University

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Glasgow Clyde Education Foundation

University of St Andrews

Merchiston Castle School

Work highlights

  • Acted for a Scottish independent school in connection with a complaint that the school was objectionable for having failed to safeguard the well-being of its pupils.
  • Providing regular advice to the client; in 2018, this included advice on property transactions, governance, freedom of information and data security issues alongside IP and copyright disputes in order to protect SQA’s brand as well as dealing with complaints by students and parents.
  • The team is the sole supplier of legal services to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and has recently provided advice on its statutory powers and duties, its relationship with the government, colleges and universities as well as real estate, procurement, employment law and equality law matters.
  • Assisted the client with its response to challenges to decisions refusing placing requests involving children with additional support needs. This included advice on whether the council had properly applied the statutory tests, and on Assisted Support Needs Tribunal proceedings.
  • Acting for the university in a wide range of governance and student issues, including student discipline cases, policy changes to the Student Code of Conduct, part-time study and admission matters alongside litigation.

CMS

With a strong focus on the higher education sector, Carina Healy's multi-disciplinary team at CMS acts for many of Scotland's best-known universities and colleges. Much of its work pertains to corporate, IP, IT and property-related matters including those pertaining to large-scale campus development and refurbishment projects. In the contentious space, the practice is well versed in handling whistleblowing and other employment-related disputes.

Practice head(s):

Carina Healy

Other key lawyers:

Laurence Ward; Darina Kerr; Gillian MacLellan

Testimonials

Very good team for higher education sector work.’

Key clients

University of Glasgow

Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre

Glasgow School of Art

University of Aberdeen

University of Dundee

Heriot-Watt University

The James Hutton Institute

Glasgow Clyde College

Work highlights

  • Advised the university on various constitutional and governance matters concerning the compliance with the Higher Education and Governance (Scotland) Act 2016 (HEGSA) and the Scottish Code for Good Higher Education Governance.
  • Advising the University of Glasgow on its joint venture with Portage Pharmaceuticals (PPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Toronto based Portage Biotech.
  • Advised the University of Glasgow on the drafting and negotiation of a worldwide licencing and revenue sharing agreement with Koninklijke Philips for the rights to manufacture and market Philips’ recently validated prognostic biomarker for prostate cancer.
  • The team has been advising the University of Glasgow on its campus expansion purchase, leaseback and redevelopment of the former Western Infirmary Hospital in Glasgow.
  • Advised the client on refurbishment works and other matters pertaining to the Mackintosh building fire.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Providing full-service advice, Pinsent Masons LLP is a respected player in the market, which leads to regular instructions from universities and higher education sector bodies on sector specific governance and regulatory matters, IP and IT issues, alongside procurement, corporate, employment law and campus estate property matters. The 'strong and well-regarded' team led by the 'excellentChris Martin has also been increasingly active in university accommodation project-related tax work and litigation arising out of regulatory frameworks.

Practice head(s):

Chris Martin

Testimonials

Committed to its clients.

Understands the needs of its clients.

Its obvious to see how the team has developed its reputation in the sector.

Provides first-class service.

Key clients

The University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Business School

Robert Gordon’s University

University of Aberdeen

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

Higher Education Statistics Agency

Work highlights

  • Advised the University of Edinburgh on the procurement of a multi-million-pound high-performance computer system from Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
  • Advising the university on two major technology procurements; firstly, the replacement of its core local area network with a new campus-wide network and, secondly, the replacement of the university’s legacy core business systems with an integrated and cloud-based solution.
  • Assisted Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh with the review of its student residence arrangements.
  • Advising the University of Edinburgh on its participation in a €64m grant-funded clinical trial project relating to the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia.
  • The team has been appointed as exclusive legal advisor to the University of Edinburgh on the £1.1bn Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal including technology procurement, funding arrangements and GDPR compliance.

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Neil Maclean's team at Shepherd and Wedderburn covers a broad spectrum of contentious and non-contentious education sector work. Universities, independent schools and governmental bodies receive regular assistance with procurement and construction matters pertaining to large-scale projects but clients also instruct the team with employment, immigration and pensions-related issues as well as charity law work.

Practice head(s):

Neil Maclean

Other key lawyers:

Joanna Boag-Thomson; James Dobie; Malcolm Rust; John Rutherford

Testimonials

‘Shepherd and Wedderburn are always responsive, with a knowledge of the issues the sector is grappling with. They are particularly strong on the employment law front and show a strong commitment to the public sector generally – demonstrated in part by their commitment to a detailed research report on the sector in recent times’.

‘The team is highly responsive and client-focused’.

‘Neil Maclean is responsive and pragmatic’.

Key clients

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Glasgow

The University of Aberdeen

South Ayrshire Council

The City of Edinburgh Council

The University of Edinburgh Staff Benefits Scheme

Craigholme School

Merchants Company of Edinburgh

Hutchesons’ Educational Trust

University of St Andrews Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme

Work highlights

  • Advised the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) on its Queensferry High School hub South East project, valued at approximately £40m. This involved advice on the procurement process and negotiating project-specific amendments to the Standard Form DBFM Agreement.
  • Ongoing advice on all employment law matters.
  • The team acted for PwC, the administrator appointed to Beaconhurst Grange (in administration), to protect the creditors’ position, and provided advice on various rescue options and ultimately the closure of the school.
  • Advising East Ayrshire Council (EAC) on the procurement of new early childhood centres in Kilmaurs, Stewarton and Netherthird.
  • Advising the University of Glasgow on all employment and pension matters including immigration advice and the securing and maintaining of sponsor licences.

Thorntons Law LLP

Thorntons Law LLP provides education sector clients with wide-ranging advice on various commercial and governance issues, academic and disciplinary appeals alongside government policy and funding matters as well as assistance with regulatory compliance, brand management and student affairs. IP expert Lesley Larg heads the 'focused' team, which includes IP lawyer Loretta Maxfield and corporate and commercial expert Robbie Francis, who were both promoted to the partnership in January 2019.

Practice head(s):

Lesley Larg

Other key lawyers:

Noele McClelland; Robbie Francis; Loretta Maxfield

Testimonials

Always acts in the best interest of the client.

Excellent service.

Key clients

University of Abertay Dundee

University of Stirling

University of Strathclyde

University of the Highlands and Islands

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow School of Art

Robert Gordon University

University of St Andrews

The James Hutton Institute

Dundee and Angus College

Perth College

Colleges Scotland

High School of Dundee

Work highlights

  • Advised the client on the drafting of the university’s new governing order.
  • The team advised the college on a senior management restructure and associated grievances regarding bullying and harassment.
  • Advising the university on two complex race, religion and age discrimination claims involving unrepresented claimants.

BTO Solicitors LLP

BTO Solicitors LLP handles a wide range of education sector work with a focus on sector-specific employment, cyber security and data protection matters alongside online reputation, charity law, construction and real estate issues, including litigation. Paul Motion leads the team.

Practice head(s):

Paul Motion

Key clients

Glasgow Kelvin College

George Watson’s College

Glasgow Academy

Glenalmond College

University of Strathclyde Students’ Association

Work highlights

  • Advising the college on various employment and HR matters, including employment tribunal claims, settlement agreements, grievances, disciplinary matters and collective industrial relation issues.
  • Assisting the Students’ Association of the University of the West of Scotland (SAUWS) with the move from its current unincorporated association form to a company limited by guarantee.
  • Acting for an independent school following allegations of failure to provide a proper education, proper pastoral care and medical malpractice; the claim was brought by the parents of a pupil.
  • Assisting the academy with the implementation of GDPR and other general data protection.

MacRoberts LLP

MacRoberts LLP's client base consists of educational institutions and education authorities, which benefit from the team's real estate and construction expertise. Clients also instruct the team to handle contentious and non-contentious employment law work alongside GDPR and IP matters. Deborah Miller is the main contact.

Practice head(s):

Deborah Miller

Other key lawyers:

Katy Wedderburn; Rod Munro; David Gourlay; Valerie Surgenor; John Macmillan; Gillian Craig; Jennifer McKay

Key clients

University of Highlands and Islands (UHI)

Ready for Business

South Lanarkshire College

Perth and Kinross Council

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Donaldson’s School

Glenalmond College

George Watson’s College

Work highlights

  • The team continues to advise ESP on the legal implications following the discovery of latent defects in wall construction at various schools in Edinburgh.
  • Provided advice and tribunal representation to the University of Dundee in relation to claims for unfair dismissal, breach of contract and indirect age discrimination.
  • Advising Education Scotland on a digital multi-tenancy platform used nationally by schools, universities and other educational institutions. This includes advice on commercial contracts, data protection and software licensing matters.

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser's strength lies in advising local authorities, public education bodies and private schools on sector-specific employment and immigration law matters alongside reputational issues pertaining to student and pupil relationships, student accommodation property work and litigation. David Walker is the main contact.

Practice head(s):

David Walker

Other key lawyers:

David Hossack

Key clients

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS)

George Watson’s College

Glasgow Kelvin College

George Heriot’s School

Craigclowan Preparatory School

Student Awards Agency for Scotland

Scottish Schools Education Research Centre

Empiric Student Property

East Renfrewshire Council

Work highlights

  • Successfully represented a leading university in its defence of an unfair dismissal and discrimination claim.
  • Providing immigration advice to a higher education institution which includes a review of its policies and procedures relating to international workers.
  • Advised SCIS on the production of templates and policies for its members; this involved sector-specific advice on contract law, consumer finance, GDPR, parental rights and responsibilities, child law and equality law.
  • Advised Empiric Student Property on a £7.1m student accommodation acquisition in Edinburgh.
  • Assisted George Heriot’s School with GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 compliance. This included reviewing and updating all relevant documentation and processes, including updating and preparing privacy notices for staff, job applicants, pupils, parents and others and updating and preparing internal data protection policies.

Burness Paull LLP

Burness Paull LLP's 'approachable and hard-working' team acts for a diverse range of education sector clients such as universities, private schools, further and higher-education institutions as well as local authorities and private-sector players. Typically, its work pertains to transactions and funding matters arising from major education sector projects but Chris MacKay's team is also experienced in charity law, employment and commercial property work.

Practice head(s):

Chris Mackay

Testimonials

The team has an enviable track record advising various local authorities.’

Its staff is well informed, knowledgeable and easy to engage with.

Key clients

University of St Andrews

Robert Gordon’s College

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

The City of Edinburgh Council

Falkirk Council

Albyn School

Aboyne After School Club

Renfrewshire Council

Skills Development Scotland

Work highlights

  • Acted for the university as the majority landowner in a complex series of transactions which will deliver 1,000 new homes as well as additional university facilities, retail, sports facilities, and schools in St Andrews.
  • Advising the trust, which runs the Donaldson’s School, on changing its legal form from a trust to a Scottish charitable incorporated organisation (SCIO).
  • Advising RCPSG on the implementation of a new legal framework, including the incorporation of a new joint venture entity, and a suite of legal documentation to regulate various aspects of the arrangements.
  • Advised Albyn School, an independent co-educational school based in Aberdeen, on a range of commercial property, employment and contentious matters.

Clyde & Co LLP

Clyde & Co LLP has sector-specific contentious and non-contentious employment and discrimination law work at its core. The 'entirely committed' practice acts for higher and further education institutions, local authority education departments and other educational bodies and frequently defends against claims of unfair dismissal, race and age discrimination as well as various forms of abuse. Employment lawyer Graham Mitchell heads the team.

Practice head(s):

Graham Mitchell

Other key lawyers:

Frances Ross; Graeme Watson; Stephen Miller

Testimonials

Provides sound and timely advice.

Understands complex situations very quickly.

You can have complete confidence in their judgement.

Questions are answered promptly, often outside office hours.

Graeme Watson is highly knowledgeable and has the ability to be both empathetic and strong in his guidance. He has a very calm yet determined approach.

Key clients

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

EIS

Argyll College

The University of Edinburgh

University of St Andrews

Forth Valley College

New College Lanarkshire

University of Glasgow

West College Scotland

Work highlights

  • Advising the client on the terms of the 2019 pay offer to teachers and associated threats of industrial action.