Next Generation Partners

Education in Scotland

Anderson Strathern

Anderson Strathern‘s education practice group has demonstrable strength across the higher, further and secondary education sectors with niche specialisation in the additional support needs tribunal area. Practice head Alun Thomas handles university and local authority sector work, particularly contractual disputes and is recommended for mediation. Catriona Watt advises on governance and safeguarding issues for independent schools whilst Audrey Cameron in Glasgow is the key contact for education mergers in Scotland. The team has extensive contentious experience illustrated with its ongoing engagement in the Scottish child abuse inquiry. Elsewhere, Gillian Harkness-McKinlay joined from Burness Paull LLP, enhancing the groups charities law offering.

Practice head(s):

Alun Thomas

Other key lawyers:

Audrey Cameron; Catriona Watt; Gillian Harkness-McKinlay


‘The Anderson Strathern team have a huge number of years combined expertise in advising on all aspects of the Education sector from primary right through to Further and Higher Education.’

‘The team is second to none for their knowledge and experience.’

‘They have experience at all levels and bring that extensive knowledge to bear for their clients. We benefit greatly from all of that experience in resolving many issues before they become disputes, saving time, hassle and money. We appreciate that unique approach.’

‘Alun Thomas is the leader of the team and provides sound judgement and advice in resolving issues and in offering support to our teams.’

Key clients

University of St Andrews

University of Edinburgh

University of Strathclyde

University of the Highlands and Islands

Glasgow Caledonian University

Edinburgh Napier University

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Ayrshire College

City of Glasgow College

Edinburgh College

Glasgow Clyde College

New College Lanarkshire

North Highland College

Shetland UHI

South Lanarkshire College

West College Scotland

Inverness College

Gateshead College

Fettes College

St Leonards School


Merchiston Castle School

Erskine Stewarts Melville College

Cargilfield Prep School

Belhaven School

Kelvinside Academy

Fairview 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

North Lanarkshire Council

Work highlights

  • Acting for these independent boarding schools in representing their interests at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry before Lady Smith.
  • Advising in relation to the “phoenix” model of FE institution restructure which saw the new Shetland UHI college born out of the three way merger of FE and Training bodies on Shetland involving the Local Authority and the creation of a new independent charity board.
  • Advising the Strathclyde University on all legal aspects of its business, ranging from property transactions advice regarding spin out companies, HR and student issues including pensions and immigration.

Brodies LLP

At Brodies LLP, the market leading education practice is frequently instructed by leading universities in Scotland on several employment, governance and regulatory issues, including serious misconduct and sensitive student matters. Jointly managed by Brenda Scott and Niall McLean who is active in contentious work, the team is also well placed to handle immigration related education mandates and construction related disputes, underpinned by its strong dispute resolution group. Lynne Marr is the key contact for employment law for higher education and independent schools. The team regularly works with its government and regulation practice groups.

Practice head(s):

Brenda Scott; Niall McLean

Other key lawyers:

Lynne Marr


‘Very reactive and give clear and directive advice.’

‘Niall McLean continues to be excellent. He leads by example meaning the team that works with us are also very responsive and helpful.’

‘We really value the proactive advice and support as well as the ability to bring creative solutions to the table.’

‘Brodies has an excellent team in place. They are extremely responsive and able to provide contextual, risk-based advice.’

‘The team at Brodies have a thorough understanding of the Education sector, providing excellent advice in a timely and accessible way.’

Key clients

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Queen Margaret University (‘QMU’)

University of Edinburgh

University of Aberdeen

London Universities Procurement Consortium (LUPC)

Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APUC)

Newbattle Abbey College

Dollar Academy

Stirling and Falkirk 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.
  • Appointed to the Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APUC) framework in Scotland and the London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) framework in England, allowimg the firm to act for a significant number of further and higher education institutions.
  • Act for the University of Edinburgh on a wide range of employment, governance and student issues.

Shepherd and Wedderburn

Shepherd and Wedderburn is singled out for its full service offering in the higher education sector, advising leading universities and independent schools across employment, pensions, and immigration. Neil Maclean remains a key practitioner for employment related mandates and leads the firm’s relationship with the University of Glasgow. Elsewhere, the group is also equipped to advise on sensitive disputes related to allegations of race and sex discrimination, as well as its expertise in charity law provided by Malcolm RustJacqueline Moore leads the firm’s specialist higher education immigration network.

Practice head(s):

Neil Maclean; James Dobie; Stephen Hubner; Malcolm Rust; Joanna Boag-Thomson

Other key lawyers:

Jacqueline Moore


SW have been on our panel for a number of years and provide solid, risk based advice.’

‘Neil MacLean provides excellent, responsive advice.’

Key clients

The University of Edinburgh

The University of Glasgow

The University of Aberdeen

South Ayrshire Council

The Moredun Group

Hutchesons’ Educational Trust

University of St Andrews Superannuation and Life Assurance Scheme

Scottish Association for Marine Science

South Lanarkshire College

The High School of Glasgow

Work highlights

  • Acting as sole employment and immigration law adviser to the University of Glasgow, including representing it at the Employment Tribunal, advising on remote working from overseas, liaising with the Home Office in respect of a novel issue in the new immigration system, and providing advice in connection with industrial relations issues in relation to pay and conditions.
  • Acting for Study World (the owner and operator of Heriot Watt University’s campus in Dubai) in relation to the defence of a £3.5m cross-border (Scotland and UAE) claim in the Court of Session following the termination of an Academic Infrastructure Agreement.
  • Advising the University of Edinburgh on a major alcohol licence variation to take into account the changing socialising requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic.


CMS represents leading Scottish universities on the full gamut of matters including real estate, charity law and employment matters owing to its full-service offering. Practice head and dual-qualified Carina Healy is ‘technically excellent’, according to peers and has expertise in the life sciences sector, regularly conducting cross-border matters with its London team. The team also advises on regulatory, governance and procurement issues for both public and private sector clients. On the real estate side; Christine Worthington and Chris Dixon are they contacts.

Practice head(s):

Carina Healy

Other key lawyers:

Christine Worthington; Chris Dixon


‘Christine Worthington and Chris Dixon at the Glasgow office are outstanding lawyers to work with. Characterised by comprehensiveness of knowledge and experience, directness and clarity advice and super professional, fast service. One never feels exposed in working with them.’

Key clients

University College London

University of Glasgow

University of Sheffield

University of St Andrews

Queen Mary, University of London

Heriot-Watt University

East Renfrewshire Council

The Moray Council

Argyll & Bute Council

City of Edinburgh Council

Work highlights

  • Advising University of St Andrews on a multi-million pound next phase of development at their Eden Campus at Guardbridge.
  • Advising the University of Glasgow on the procurement issues relating to the operation of the University’s Lighthouse COVID-19 testing laboratory.
  • Providing a back office contract support service for UCL’s Research Contracts team, involving the drafting and negotiation of over 300 research related contracts.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Bolstered by its regional footprint across the UK, Pinsent Masons LLP handles several large-scale student accommodation projects, mergers, and regulatory issues for key sector bodies and leading higher education providers, including the LSE. Practice head Chris Martin leads the team from Edinburgh with key points of contact including Joanne McIntosh who advises on commercial contracts and infrastructure expert Chris Owens. The group also has a robust litigation practice which advises on employment-related mandates.

Practice head(s):

Chris Martin

Other key lawyers:

Chris Owens; Joanne McIntosh


‘Excellent higher education sector knowledge and experience in dealing with key stakeholders.’

‘Chris Owens inspires confidence and his involvement was key to the success of this project.’

‘Pinsent Masons has an excellent overview of the issues facing the sector across the UK which is really helpful in supporting our work in Scotland. The ability to understand impact across the sector is really important.’

‘Chris Martin is really good to work with. He consistently goes above and beyond to support us and is always happy to have constructive discussions at any point.’

Key clients

University of Edinburgh

Heriot Watt University

Edinburgh Business School


Higher Education Statistics Agency

University of Aberdeen

Roslin Institute

University of Essex

University of Birmingham

London School of Economics and Political Science

University of Leeds

Aston University

University of Lincoln

Work highlights

  • Advised Jisc (the body that operates the high speed IT network, JANET, used by the UK research and education community) on a multi-million pound project to procure a partner for the delivery of a managed firewall service to universities, colleges and research institutions to help counter a growing number of cyber-attacks.
  • Advised the London School of Economics and Political Science on a £129m student accommodation project involving the appointment of a partner to design, build, operate and maintain a 676 bedroom property over 50 plus years.
  • Advising the University of Edinburgh on the latest phase of the Edinburgh BioQuarter development at Little France, involving the launch of the procurement process to appoint a private sector partner to deliver a £1bn health innovation district and community for thousands of people.

Thorntons Law LLP

Thorntons Law LLP has a track record advising on major governance issues, academic appeals and regulatory compliance work, providing a full service for higher-education clients. The group is led by experienced intellectual property lawyer Lesley Larg who is based between Dundee and Edinburgh, and largely handles contentious issues. Employment-related matters are dealt with by Noele McClelland, as well as reputation management.

Practice head(s):

Lesley Larg

Other key lawyers:

Noele McClelland


‘An excellent team who understand strategic issues and how these are practically applied to complex operational environments.’

‘Depth and understanding of the sector in my view has not been surpassed.’

‘The team supporting us has very strong direct experience of working on research-related agreements, which is the principal area in which we require regular advice.’

‘They provide a good balance of legal and risk-based insight, helping us identify what areas are important and what areas we might compromise on, in order to reach arrangements that protect and enhance our legal and commercial position.’

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 longstanding client the James Hutton Institute on its involvement in a joint venture involving commercialisation of plant propagation technology, involving corporate, intellectual property and commercial real estate elements.
  • Advised Abertay University on a high-value competitive dialogue IT procurement process in discussions with multiple vendors around solution, including on procurement, intellectual property, cross-border privacy and other contractual issues.
  • Advising a regional strategic board in the college sector on complex and challenging corporate and charity governance issues at a senior level within a Scottish college.

Burness Paull LLP

Burness Paull LLP is skilled at advising both regional and Scottish higher education institutions and was recently appointed to the APUC framework. The team handles transactional mandates for leading universities including joint ventures and spinouts as well as employment-related issues, leveraging its firm-wide capability – Morag Hutchison is a key name here. Practice head Fiona Killen has demonstrable strength in education governance work and data protection matters and is supported by Hazel Moffat, who handles compliance with regulatory matters for education bodies. Elsewhere, Richard Lockhart joined the partnership from the Scottish Futures Trust.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Killen

Other key lawyers:

Hazel Moffat; Richard Lockhart; Morag Hutchison


‘Fiona Killen is an expert in education law in Scotland; including niche aspects.’

‘Burness Paull is an excellent company to work with. Comprehensive advice is provided promptly and in a way that is easy to understand. The partner’s understanding and experience of the sector we work in is first class and input from some of the other partners e.g. employment law, has been very helpful. All staff we deal with are very professional and friendly.’

Working with Hazel Moffat is a pleasure. Nothing is too much trouble – even ensuring she is contactable out of normal working hours when there are important and specific issues to be dealt with. She is a good communicator and makes everything easy to understand. Advice is provided promptly and she often provides a new perspective on issues which is refreshing. Her experience of the further and higher education sectors is invaluable.’

Key clients

Scottish Funding Council

University of the West of Scotland

University of St Andrews

Robert Gordon’s College

North East Scotland College

Hub West Scotland Ltd

Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges

Harlow College

The UNITE UK student Accommodation Fund

Bòrd na Gàidhlig

Work highlights

  • Sole providers of legal services to the Scottish Funding Council.
  • Provided strategic advice to the University of the West of Scotland on constitutional and governance matters.
  • Advised the University of St. Andrews in relation to the ongoing joint venture that they have with a consortium of landowners for the development of St. Andrews West.

MacRoberts LLP

Public and private sector education institutions instruct MacRoberts LLP on commercial contracts, procurement, and finance related matters, as well as representing clients in the employment tribunal. Practice head David Gourlay advises on data protection and IP issues, he is supported by Katy Wedderburn whose practice is largely focused on industrial relations and mergers. Rod Munro in Edinburgh is rated by clients and is recommended for complex education related projects. The team faced one departure with employment lawyer Deborah Miller leaving for Shepherd and Wedderburn.

Practice head(s):

David Gourlay

Other key lawyers:

Katy Wedderburn; Rod Munro


‘We have worked closely with MacRoberts over a number of years and always found the team to be incredibly helpful, knowledgeable, personable and ready to offer good sound advice. The nature of our business means that we often have to react quickly – the experienced team at MacRoberts has always been responsive to our needs.’

‘Working with Rod Munro at MacRoberts has been a pleasure. Rod has an agreeable, calm and non-confrontational manner but don’t be fooled, he is a robust and proficient ally.’

Key clients

3ED Glasgow Limited

The Renfrewshire Schools Partnership Limited

The University of the West of Scotland

The Interactive Design Institute Limited

Sumdog Limited

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

Glasgow City Council

Cheemia Limited

High School of Glasgow

Scottish Government

Work highlights

  • Advise the Project Company, 3ED Glasgow Limited, which is responsible for operating and maintaining nearly 30 schools for its client, Glasgow City Council.
  • Acting on behalf of the SPV on the Renfrewshire Schools PFI project in multi-million-pound Court of Session proceedings raised against it by Renfrewshire Council concerning alleged breach of the terms of the services specification.
  • Acting on behalf of the University in relation to a claim against the building contractor and consultants involved in the re-development of the Lanarkshire Campus in respect of alleged defects in the glazing panels.

Morton Fraser

Overseen from Glasgow by David Walker, Morton Fraser is instructed by an enviable client roster comprising higher education institutions, private schools, state schools and specialist education clients. The team is well placed to handle a variety of matters spanning from transactional property work to data protection, as well as issues related to employees, students and governing organisations. Specialist employment lawyer David Hossack is rated by clients.

Practice head(s):

David Walker

Other key lawyers:

David Hossack; Julie Nixon


‘We have excellent professional relationships with key people who absolutely go out of their way to support us in any way they can. David Hossack is a superbly knowledgeable, wise and reassuring colleagues.’

Julie Nixon is an excellent resource for us, as she understands the needs of the organisation and adapts her approach to complement the expertise that our internal clients have.’

Key clients


Robert Gordons College

George Heriots School

Harmeny Education Trust limited

George Watsons College

Dollar Academy

The MacKenzie School of English