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skills and services
Critical Thinking offers a range of specialist policy analysis, development, evaluation, research, consultancy and communication services and skills. We conduct discrete projects and, on larger projects or where additional personnel or expertise are required, we collaborate with other organisations and specialist consultancies. We are highly experienced at putting together and managing teams comprising the most appropriate blend of skills and expertise.

Critical Thinking offers:

  • research and intelligence
  • policy analysis and development
  • policy evaluation
  • consultancy
  • project management
  • communications

    Research and intelligence

    Critical Thinking seeks sponsorship and initiates and conducts 'think tank'-style research in areas of interest. We also provide bespoke research in further and higher education, training and skills and other social policies, in the form of written and oral briefings. We can offer summaries of policy research, updates on emerging policy debates and analyses of the likely direction of future policies.

    We carry out both fieldwork and desk research to inform policy development and implementation. We design research programmes, run focus groups and surveys, conduct interviews and undertake literature reviews.

    Recent work includes:

    • review of literature scoping graduate employability issues for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and the Scottish University for Industry, with policyworks and the Scottish Council Foundation published as Higher Education Higher Ambitions?
    • Guidelines for Cost Recovery on Research Grants and Contracts a study resulting in a set of guidelines to universities on better research overhead cost recovery for a consortium of Scottish universities and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council
    • research into the knowledge and attitudes of further education college managers to course costing for the Learning and Skills Development Agency; and
    • policy and environmental briefings for overseas study groups for the British Council.

    Policy analysis and development

    Critical Thinking helps a wide range of client organisations to explore and analyse policy developments, generate ideas and help develop corporate positions on particular policy issues. We advise on and conduct consultation exercises. We also work with clients to develop written responses and submissions to Government and other consultation exercises. We help organisations prepare proactive materials designed to generate debate and influence outcomes.

    Recent work includes:

    • planning and leading a strategic policy 'awayday' for senior managers of a Scottish quango;
    • anaylsis of options and recommendation for widening the scope of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework for the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Development Partners
    • via the Learning and Skills Research Centre, providing advice to the UK government on the 'costs of disadvantage' - an analysis of the research into the rate at which the widening participation premium in further education, is set;
    • development and presentation of a collective policy position on the future of higher education for a consortium of universities; and
    • development and presentation of a policy position on the future of lifelong learning in Scotland for submission to the Scottish Parliament for an individual university.

    Policy evaluation

    Critical Thinking evaluates policy initiatives and programmes and recommends how the findings could improve service delivery.

    Recent work includes:

    • evaluation of the effects upon teaching and learning in the English further education sector of the Further Education Funding Council for England's capital programme expenditure for the Learning and Skills Development Agency;
    • evaluation of a community health project for Midlothian Council;
    • evaluation of stakeholder views of recent internal restructuring of its vocational education division for the British Council; and
    • evaluation of its experimental, targeted approach to disseminating information about individual learning accounts, for Scottish Enterprise.


    Our policy and consultancy projects are complementary and closely linked. We apply our extensive knowledge of the education and training policy environment to provide practical solutions to the implementation and operational issues faced by individual institutions and organisations. We identify the practical implications of new policy developments for a wide range of organisations. We also advise universities and colleges on how best to address relevant government objectives within their strategic planning activities.

    Recent work includes:

    • study scoping options for student services for an individual university;
    • study scoping options for collaboration and strategic alliances for two universities;
    • review of continuing education provision for an art college; and
    • strategic planning advice for an art college.

    Project management

    We manage both short, discrete projects and longer-term projects for organisations. We manage and co-ordinate projects, resources, staff and external consultants, steering and advisory committees and external advisors on behalf of clients.

    Recent work includes:

    • management of, and secretariat to, a project on behalf of the Learning and Skills Development Agency considering the prospects for growth in the English further education sector; and
    • project and staff management support and advice on the development of social inclusion policies for Universities Scotland.


    We advise organisations on how to present policy ideas and policy consultations to best effect. In partnership with public relations specialists, we advise on effective public relations strategies.

    We help organisations research, analyse and present data and other relevant information to make their case as effectively as possible in public policy debates.

    We draft and advise on a range of documents: from position papers, pamphlets and policy papers to corporate plans and annual reports. We prepare articles and press releases for a variety of publications. Our analysis is sought and quoted in articles and news stories.

    Recent work includes:

    • advice to a quango on the presentation of issues in a highly technical and controversial consultation exercise;
    • advice to a quango in preparation for its attendance in front of a Scottish Parliament Committee;
    • preparation of policy analysis and economic context papers for a further education college;
    • research and drafting of its Annual Report for a quango;
    • keynote article on modernising public services for the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants annual conference handbook;
    • Educating the Scots: The Renewal of the Democratic Intellect chapter in Anatomy of the New Scotland; and
    • Higher Education Higher Ambitions? study scoping graduate employability issues for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and the Scottish University for Industry.