Plans for HE in Wales announced by Education Minister

29 June 2010

Universities in Wales face closure and mergers under plans announced by Education Minister Leighton Andrews.

From Wales Online:

In a statement to AMs yesterday, he said: “The HEFCW [Higher Education Funding Council for Wales] has determined that by 2013 75% of HEIs in Wales will have an annual income above the UK median, and none will be in the lower quartile. 

“This target does not mean fewer students. But it is likely to mean fewer vice chancellors. We will have significantly fewer HEIs in Wales but they will be larger and stronger. HEFCW will work with HEIs to achieve this smoothly and rapidly with my full backing and of the Cabinet. 

“In line with this approach of consolidation and strengthening, HEFCW will this year devise a new method of funding research from 2011/12 which will support a sharper focus on areas of national priority, and critical mass. 

“This will better equip Welsh HEIs to compete for research funds with other HEIs in the UK and beyond and be world leaders in their field. As a result of these changes I expect to see research income growth equal to or greater than elsewhere in the UK.” 

In its own statement, universities funding body HEFCW yesterday said that it “believes there are too many higher education institutions in Wales for optimal effectiveness under contemporary, highly competitive, conditions”. 

It said it wants to see “substantially fewer institutions, better able to take risks, withstand shocks, and remain innovative into the longer term”. 

Roger Thomas, chair of HEFCW, said: “We plan to work with providers to build a first class higher education system in Wales that will perform at a high level and make best use of available funds, which is particularly important in the current economic climate. 

“We have already started to target our funding to drive forward strategic goals.” 

The body which represents universities in Wales, Higher Education Wales (HEW), said it would work with HEFCW and the minister on the plans. 

Prof Noel Lloyd, chairman of HEW, said: “Discussions regarding future arrangements to deliver for students are proceeding apace in Wales, including a major new collaborative grouping between Trinity University College, Swansea Metropolitan University, and three FE colleges in South West Wales, while the University of Wales, Newport, is working with regional FE college partners. 

“We have also seen the launch of the Aber-Bangor Skills Centre, and the launch of the Universities Heads of the Valleys Institute. We expect forthcoming discussions regarding regional strategies for higher education to improve the opportunities for new arrangements.” 

He added: “Financial constraints are uppermost in people’s minds at present but it is important not to lose sight of the long term benefits that higher education will bring to Wales. 

“The strategies show a deep understanding of these long term benefits. We must focus on the quality and value of the experience we offer to students, support them to complete their studies, and equip them with the skills they will require to find employment. 

“The fundamental importance of our international reputation and activities is also well understood, particularly to maximise the value we deliver to Wales.” 

You can read the statement and the debate here or watch the recording here

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