Education in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern's multidisciplinary approach enables the team to assist many of Scotland's universities and colleges - which reflects its strength in the higher, further and secondary education sectors - alongside private schools and local authorities with a wide range of topics ranging from (Brexit-related) immigration and (Covid-19-related) employment matters to IP, project development, real estate and general commercial issues. As a testimony to its contentious capabilities, the team is one of the few specialist practices working in the Additional Support Needs Tribunal and provides assistance with the Scottish child abuse inquiry. Team head Alun Thomas is a key contact for mediation and employment law advice.

Practice head(s):

Alun Thomas

Other key lawyers:

Catriona Watt; Barry Nichol; Andrew Brown

Testimonials

‘They are always responsive and have been particularly helpful on the interpretation of government and HMRC guidance and directives linked to the pandemic. This is such a new area for all of us and the advice they have provided is both practical and helpful.

‘Andrew Brown remains accessible and is strongest on giving advice based on the client’s long term aims. He helps us determine strategy for complex issues and discusses options with their strengths and weaknesses.’

Key clients

University of Edinburgh

University of St Andrews

University of Strathclyde

University of the Highlands and Islands

Glasgow Caledonian University

University of the West of Scotland

Edinburgh Napier University

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Ayrshire College

City of Glasgow College

Edinburgh College

Fife College

Glasgow Clyde College

New College Lanarkshire

North Highland College

Shetland Islands College

South Lanarkshire College

West College Scotland

Inverness College

Fettes College

St Leonards School

Gordonstoun

Merchiston Castle School

Erskine Stewarts Melville College

Cargilfield Prep School

Belhaven School

Kelvinside Academy

Fairfield International School

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

Work highlights

  • Continues to provide full-service advice to Edinburgh Napier University; including construction, IP, IT, commercial company spin-outs, immigration, pension and employment law matters.
  • Advised a number of private schools in relation to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry helping them to present their cases.
  • Advising a number of FE Colleges on the impact of Covid-19 upon their teaching and employment arrangements making early use of the furlough scheme arrangements.

Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP puts significant emphasis on the higher education sector, providing many of Scotland's leading universities and colleges with employment, governance, corporate and project development support in particular, but the team also acts for independent schools, qualification bodies and local authorities. Key contact Brenda Scott is best known for her corporate and commercial expertise, which is regularly called upon in the context of joint ventures and corporate structures, while Niall McLean is the main contact for contentious and non-contentious student matters. Benefiting from the firm's strong dispute resolution practice, it is also well placed to handle sector-specific construction disputes.

Practice head(s):

Brenda Scott; Niall McLean

Other key lawyers:

William McIntosh; Christine O’Neill; Lynne Marr; Jackie McGuire

Key clients

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Queen Margaret University (‘QMU’)

University of Edinburgh

Dollar Academy

Glasgow Caledonian University

Perth and Kinross Council

University of Aberdeen

Work highlights

  • Reappointed to the University of Edinburgh’s panel in January 2021; advising the university on a broad range of issues, including commercial, employment and student matters.
  • Reappointed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) as its sole legal services provider. Advised the client on a range of commercial and public law issues, including on how to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in making arrangements for assessment of students following cancellation of the normal exam dates.
  • Advised the University of Aberdeen on a wide range of real estate and construction-related matters, including campus redevelopment projects and leasing arrangements.

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Known for its prowess in the higher education sector, Shepherd and Wedderburn is a key contact for many of Scotland's leading universities but also acts for private schools and public sector bodies. With employment specialist Neil Maclean in the lead, the group has a strong profile for sector-specific employment, pensions and immigration law alongside associated disputes arising from allegations of race discrimination and other complaints. In other work, clients retain the group to advise on property, real estate and IP matters alongside construction disputes; councils receive wide-ranging assistance with education projects. Its expertise in charity law and governance complements this offering.

Practice head(s):

Neil Maclean

Other key lawyers:

James Dobie; Stephen Hubner; Malcolm Rust; Joanna Boag-Thomson; Keir Willox

Testimonials

‘They provide thoughtful and risk-based legal advice.’

Key clients

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Glasgow

The University of Aberdeen

South Ayrshire Council

West Lothian Council

The Moredun Group

Merchants Company of Edinburgh

Hutchesons’ Educational Trust

University of St Andrews Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme

Scottish Association for Marine Science

Work highlights

  • Advising the City of Edinburgh Council on allegations of systemic racism in its schools made by a pupil and former pupil whistleblowers.
  • Advising the University of Edinburgh on the development and lease of a world-leading research centre in Rosyth.
  • Advising South Ayrshire Council on five closed hub DBDA (Design and Build Development) projects for the modernisation of its school estate.

CMS

CMS acts for an extensive roster of university clients requiring assistance with corporate, IP commercialisation and construction matters - most notably those pertaining to life sciences and technology-related projects and cross-border collaborations -, which is not least due to team head Carina Healy's deep expertise in this space. Other regular instructions, including those from Scottish councils seeking support with education projects, include contractual, procurement, state aid and employment law matters alongside associated disputes.

Practice head(s):

Carina Healy

Other key lawyers:

Darina Kerr; Gillian MacLellan; Christine Worthington

Testimonials

‘CMS understand the higher and further education sector very well.’

‘Christine Worthington and her team are always available to their clients and provide prompt and succinct advice just when it’s needed.’

‘I have been extremely impressed with their attentiveness, professionalism, knowledge and total competency in the range of subject matters we have required advice and guidance on. The company has strength in depth and really strong coverage on all aspects of the legal profession we require input on.’

‘Christine Worthington is my stand-out individual in this practice. Her qualities are a blend of complete and impressive coverage of her subject, clear and constant updating of her knowledge of developments in the sector (construction law in particular), extreme efficiency in her responsiveness combined with an excellent personal manner, approachability, and humanity – this last may seem an odd word to use, but is so important in conveying the integrity she projects in her work. Overall I have complete confidence in the advice she has provided us with and the sensible guidance she has always been on hand to offer.’

‘There is breadth and depth in the team making them a first port of call for a huge variety of different issues that an HEI encounters.’

‘Carina Healy is excellent. She has an in-depth understanding of the sector and takes time to get to know and understand her client too. She has a huge breadth of expertise, is very pragmatic and approachable.’

‘Each member of the team has excellent communication skills and knowledge of the sector, which has its own issues and idiosyncrasies and despite this, the work is carried out to a high standard.’

Key clients

University College London

University of Glasgow

University of Sheffield

University of St Andrews

University of Dundee

Queen Mary, University of London

Heriot-Watt University

East Renfrewshire Council

The Moray Council

Argyll & Bute Council

City of Edinburgh Council

Work highlights

  • Advising long-standing client, the University of Glasgow, on competition, procurement and state aid matters for the Covid-19 Lighthouse Lab project.
  • Advising Heriot-Watt University on the construction of the new national Robotarium, the UK’s leading innovation hub for robotics and autonomous systems, funded by the Edinburgh City Deal.
  • Advising the University of St Andrews on converting a former ScotRail engine to be hydrogen-fuelled, in commercial partnership with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government (Transport Scotland).

Pinsent Masons LLP

Embedded in the firm's UK-wide offering, Pinsent Masons LLP's Scottish team is best known for its expertise advising universities and other higher education sector players on the procurement and establishment of large technology and data projects alongside student accommodation projects. Led by TMT specialist Chris Martin, its IP offering includes advice with R&D contracts and collaboration agreements. Advising on funding, real estate and corporate structuring issues are other key elements of the practice.

Practice head(s):

Chris Martin

Other key lawyers:

Joanne McIntosh; Chris Owens

Testimonials

‘It is the quality of the advice and the reputation of the lawyers that we work with, which is important to me. We have received an excellent service from Pinsent Masons where they have considered the current marketplace along with our existing and our future requirements in the advice they have given and the recommendations they have made. They have been a big and valued contributor to our project.’

‘Chris Owens has been phenomenal in supporting our project. He has been helpful, knowledgeable and commercially pragmatic in the advice he has provided and I would have no hesitation in personally referring him for future work.’

‘Chris Martin has a great grasp of the university’s needs and provides proactive support.’

‘They have an excellent higher education practice.’

Key clients

University of Edinburgh

Heriot Watt University

Edinburgh Business School

Jisc

Higher Education Statistics Agency

University of Aberdeen

Roslin Institute

APUC (Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges)

Kingston Student Living LLP

University of Southampton

Work highlights

  • Advised the University of Edinburgh on its procurement of a new website platform.
  • Instructed on a range of new data trust projects for the Universities of Edinburgh, Southampton and Lincoln.
  • In collaboration with colleagues in the firm’s English offices, the group advised the London School of Economics and Political Science on a large student accommodation Design Build Finance and Operate project.

Thorntons Law LLP

Thorntons Law LLP handles the full spectrum of contentious and non-contentious topics arising from the operation of higher and further education institutions, including commercial real estate, constitutional and governance issues, funding and collaboration arrangements, procurement and employment. Universities and colleges also regularly instruct the team with IP matters, which constitutes team head Lesley Larg's key area of expertise.

Practice head(s):

Lesley Larg

Other key lawyers:

Noele McClelland; Robbie Francis; Loretta Maxfield

Testimonials

‘The team have strong breadth and depth of experience in the sector. They also have longstanding knowledge of our business in the context of the sector, and brings this experience to bear in their work for us.’

‘Lesley Larg has provided strong support as our lead partner, providing excellent commercial insight on many occasions.’

‘Prompt, personable and professional.’

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 University of Strathclyde on the agreement for lease and development for a joint venture between the university, Scottish Enterprise and a local authority.
  • Continues to advise the James Hutton Institute, a leading Scottish research institute, on all aspects of its Tay Cities Deal funded £60m development of an International Barley Hub and Advanced Plant Growth Centre.
  • Advised the University of Stirling on the procurement and construction aspects of its new campus sports centre.

Burness Paull LLP

Burness Paull LLP is adept at advising further education clients, including a number of universities, on construction, contractual and transactional matters, which frequently arise from project developments, while also providing assistance with joint ventures, data protection, governance and disputes. Other clients include independent schools, education sector trusts and councils. Construction and projects specialist Chris MacKay heads the team.

Practice head(s):

Chris Mackay

Other key lawyers:

Hazel Moffat; Fiona Killen; James Forbes

Testimonials

‘A super strong team at Burness Paull with a fast growing reputation in public sector work.’

‘Can pull together a broad team of talented individuals from other practice areas to support the clients needs.’

‘The team is diverse and passionate and a real delight to work with.’

Key clients

University of St Andrews

The Governors of the Donaldson Trust

Robert Gordon’s College

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

North East Scotland College

City of Edinburgh Council

Falkirk Council

Albyn School

Renfrewshire Council

Hub West Scotland Limited

Oil & Gas Technology Centre

Work highlights

  • Advised the University of St Andrews on a range of project development matters including the development of St Andrews West, the Madras College, the New Music Centre, the Biomolecular Science Building and on the Solar One renewable energy project.
  • Advising North East Scotland College on a number of matters including the sale of the Balgownie Centre, refreshing the College’s facilities management contracts, adjusting its Students’ Association Constitution and acting in relation to a dispute with outgoing tenants at the Gordon Centre.
  • Advised the Scottish Futures Trust on the collaboration with the University of Strathclyde, the University of Glasgow, and private sector partners to accelerate the deployment and adoption of 5G throughout Scotland.

MacRoberts LLP

With a focus on advising higher, further and secondary education clients while also acting for public sector bodies, MacRoberts LLP is well equipped to guide clients through IP, employment, data protection and commercial matters alongside PFI/ PPP school project-related issues. IP specialist David Gourlay heads up the team.

Practice head(s):

David Gourlay

Other key lawyers:

Katy Wedderburn; Deborah Miller; Valerie Armstrong-Surgenor

Testimonials

‘David Gourlay is always professional, measured and a sound source of advice. He understands our culture and ethos well. He responds very promptly and is generally easy to access.’

Always professional, prompt and good source of advice.

Key clients

High School of Glasgow

Sumdog Limited

George Watson’s College (The Edinburgh Merchant Company Education Board)

The Interactive Design Institute Limited

Scottish Ministers (Scottish Government)

Work highlights

  • Instructed by the High School of Glasgow to deliver equal opportunities training.
  • Advising the education application provider Sumdog Limited on brand protection issues, data protection compliance and commercial contract issues, including subscription terms and appointment of consultant.
  • Advising George Watson’s College on brand protection issues.

Morton Fraser

Morton Fraser acts for a diverse education sector client base including higher and further education institutions, schools (independent, state and grand aided special schools), sector-related bodies and councils. Led by employment law specialist David Walker, much of the team's work falls into this space and includes assistance in discrimination and unfair dismissal proceedings alongside various associated immigration and student and pupil relationship issues. Handling transactional and commercial matters are other key elements of the practice.

Practice head(s):

David Walker

Other key lawyers:

David Hossack; Adrian Bell; Stuart McWilliams; Sarah Gilzean

Testimonials

‘The most important part of our relationship with Morton Fraser is their professional skill and responsiveness. They also have strong experience in the education sector and their seminars (and more recently videoconferencing) brings together bursars from other schools to discuss key topics. This gives me both their legal views on issues, but the confidence that other schools are sharing the same challenges. This all builds from the strong relationship with David Hossack. All of his colleagues are excellent, but I know my HR manager particularly values Sarah Gilzean for HR advice.’

‘Sarah Gilzean was a very hands-on, accessible, a trusted advisor who quickly became part of our team.’

‘David Hossack is calm, measured, honest and he listens incredibly well in order to fully understand situations and circumstances very quickly. He gives sensible, thoughtful advice.

‘Morton Fraser are a medium-sized practice who offer an excellent service at good value for money. Most of our contact over the last year has been with David Hossack who has advised us on a variety of educational matters including our policy on fee rebates and complaints from parents.

‘They seek to understand our business model and ‘buy in’ to our values, ethos and purpose. Always approachable and easy to connect with.’

‘David Hossack – outstanding support to employment law but also excellent mentoring skills and dispute resolution. Adrian Bell – good at governance dealing and simplifying complexity.’

‘The education team has broad experience in the HE and FE sectors which covers relevant disciplines such as charities, corporate, IP etc. Co-ordination of disciplines is very good and the practice is always willing to carry out additional “add-on” services without charge and to offer meeting and related facilities.’

‘From my team’s perspective, we find the Morton Fraser team invaluable for supporting our spin-out companies with formation activities. This is because they have made considerable efforts to understand our internal policies & processes, which marks them out from other firms and therefore negotiations are significantly more straightforward. The team is very professional and trustworthy and also very responsive to our deadlines.’

Key clients

SRUC

Robert Gordon’s College

Glasgow University

Harmeny Education Trust limited

George Watsons College

City of Edinburgh Council

Dollar Academy

George Heriots School

The MacKenzie School of English

Empiric Student Property plc

East Renfrewshire Council

Work highlights

  • Defending a co-educational boarding school in an employment tribunal claim for age discrimination brought by a teacher and arising out of reforms to the Teachers Superannuation (Scotland) Regulations.
  • Providing strategic advice to Dollar Academy on two sets of Brexit-related reforms to the immigration rules relating to sponsoring children to study in the UK and the practical implications.
  • Acted for the City of Edinburgh Council in the sale of Boroughmuir High School for redevelopment by private property developers.