Welsh universities face radical overhaul

Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews has announced plans for a radical overhaul of Higher Education in Wales.

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Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews has announced plans for a radical overhaul of Higher Education in Wales.

Cardiff-UniversityOn Monday, the government published a report undertaken for it by Professor Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor of Exeter University, into the provision of Higher Education in South East Wales.

Arguing Wales “needs one successful Russell Group university and one successful post‐1992 university in SE Wales”, Smith concluded the best option would be for Cardiff University to remain a free-standing institution whilst seeing a strategic merger of the Universities of Glamorgan and Newport with Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Whilst both Glamorgan and Newport have embraced the idea of a merger which they said would enable them to better compete on the UK and global stage, Cardiff Metropolitan has previously made clear its outright objection to the move.

With the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) having last year also recommended such a merger, the minister yesterday put himself on a collision course with Cardiff Met.


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Addressing assembly members, Andrews explained:

“Having considered the available evidence and the issues raised in discussions, I continue to believe that HEFCW’s proposal for a strong metropolitan university in South East Wales remains a sound one.

“I welcome, therefore, the recent announcement by the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport regarding their intention to merge.

“They intend to create an institution with an enhanced applied research capacity, a focus on business engagement and employability, and improved access opportunities for local learners.

“I have noted the recent response of the governing body of Cardiff Metropolitan University to the proposed merger and of their desire to remain outside of any merger discussions. However, I continue to believe that there is a case for that institution to join with the University of Wales, Newport and the University of Glamorgan.”

He continued:

“Since I am minded to accept HEFCW’s proposal, I would also expect to proceed to a similar and concurrent consultation on the dissolution of the Cardiff Metropolitan University HE Corporation. I would hope to see progress in terms of Cardiff Metropolitan’s involvement in the new merged institution in 2014.”

Whilst the Tory education spokeswoman, Angela Burns, branded the decision a “final assault on Cardiff Metropolitan University”, in welcoming an opportunity to “blaze a trail” towards a new education system, NUS Wales president Stephanie Lloyd concluded:

“The students I talk to are worried less about institutions and titles and more about where their course will be, what facilities are on offer and what the job prospects will be like afterwards. This should be everyone’s focus from here on in.”

Responding, a spokesperson for Cardiff Metropolitan University expressed disappointment at the decision, arguing there had been a “failure to provide a single piece of evidence to support such a merger”.

They went on, however, to note the board of governors at the university “will need time to review the substance of the statement before commenting further”.


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