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Strong, sustainable and successful - proposals for the future shape of HE in Wales
In March the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) provided advice on the structure of the higher education sector in Wales in its report, Future Structure of Higher Education in Wales.
In July, the Welsh Government published the advice, and invited those with an interest in higher education to put forward written representations on HEFCW's recommendations. Nearly 400 responses were received.
The Minister has considered the issues raised in the responses and has accepted HEFCW’s recommendations that:
- Cardiff and Swansea Universities should continue to develop their considerable research and collaborative potential.
- Aberystwyth and Bangor should continue to strengthen their strategic alliance, although they will not be expected to formally merge at this time.
- The University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea Metropolitan University should merge as already planned, and also pursue their merger with the University of Wales.
- HEFCW advised that the University of Glamorgan, Cardiff Metropolitan University and University of Wales, Newport should merge.
HEFCW's report presents a persuasive case for such a merger, which would provide an opportunity for the development of a strong, competitive post-92 university in South East Wales, and which would also build on the collaborative work established thus far with the University of the Heads of the Valleys.
It would provide an opportunity for these institutions to develop a model of provision across the region to deliver higher education more sustainably and coherently. The Minister is minded to accept this recommendation, therefore, subject to detailed consultation with the institutions concerned as to the establishment of a new metropolitan university for Glamorgan and Gwent, with campuses widely distributed as at present throughout the Valleys, Cardiff and Newport.
The Minister has considered the proposals that medicine should be treated as a special case. This is due to ongoing developments in relation to medical education, which have taken place since HEFCW’s proposals were published.
The Minister has rejected the recommendation that Glyndwr University should move into a group structure managed by Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities, and instead proposes to commission a review of HE provision in North East Wales. A further announcement on this will be made in due course.
The Minister said:
“The need for fundamental change and reconfiguration of the HE system in Wales has been acknowledged for many years.
“We identified it in our overarching HE policy For Our Future when we called for radical change in the shape, structure and provision of Higher Education in Wales.
“We have made a commitment to a smaller number of stronger universities, which are more sustainable and better equipped to meet the needs of learners and the Welsh economy. It is also imperative that Wales ‘thinks big’ on research to ensure that our institutions are not left behind. The higher education sector, through Higher Education Wales, recognises the need for change and supports our initiative.
“I am glad that so many people came forward in response to HEFCW’s recommendations. I believe the changes that we are considering will raise levels of participation, improve skills and tackle low aspirations while ensuring the HE sector in Wales has a strong, sustainable and successful future in the long-term.”