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Radical way forward for higher education announced by Minister
The radical transformation of Higher Education (HE) in Wales has been announced by Education Minister Jane Hutt.
The Minister has outlined a significant shift in how the £400m+ annual funding from the Welsh Assembly Government to the HE sector in Wales will be spent to improve efficiency, widen access, develop strong links between the economy and higher education providers and improve opportunities for learning through the medium of Welsh.
Jane Hutt said:
“Our significant funding for HE must be targeted to meet the Government’s goals of achieving social justice and supporting a strong economy. It is crucial for the future success of higher education in Wales that, while building on the sector’s strengths and recognising our universities’ record of international excellence, we ensure that higher education in Wales contributes all it can to the economic, cultural and social life of Wales.”
To achieve change and drive Wales’ higher education providers forward the Welsh Assembly Government working with HEFCW and the HE Community will target funding to achieve:
- Improved planning and delivery of higher education through regional partnerships; funding will be targeted at eliminating wasteful local competition, better matching local need and demand, and building better opportunities to widen access and improve progression to higher education.
- Improved access to Higher Education for more people by offering more flexible learning, part-time learning, shorter bite sized learning, improved learner support and greater diversity in course structures. This builds on the success of examples such as the Universities Heads of the Valleys Initiative which has just recruited its first cohort of students to transform life chances in an area of low HE participation and skill levels.
- Greater access to Higher Education for those in greatest need with the launch of the national bursary and scholarship framework in 2010. This complements actions already taken by the Assembly Government to change student support arrangements to target those from less well off backgrounds and tackle the issue of student debt.
- A more competitive Welsh economy, through funding targeted to ensure that HE programmes and services better meet the needs of the workforce, and strengthen employability of graduates and graduates through the rigour and nature of their HE experience. A new strategy will be launched in 2010 to increase the number of Foundation Degrees available to boost the skill levels of the workforce by enabling Higher Education qualifications to be gained in a shorter time taken while being flexible to the needs of workers. Further Education Colleges will also have the power to award their own Foundation Degrees.
- More opportunities for learners across Wales to study through the medium of Welsh, through the Coleg Ffederal. The Coleg Ffederal Shadow Board will be formed in early 2010 with a view to being fully operational from Academic year 2011/12. By its 5th year of operation the Coleg Ffederal will receive an additional £6.1 million per annum to support Welsh Language Higher Education via a network of collaborating institutions across Wales.
- International excellence in research, through prioritising public funding support towards areas where Wales is strong and in line with national priorities, while building on Wales’ strength and expertise in manufacturing, low carbon economies, health and biosciences, advanced engineering, and key cross cutting areas such as opto-electronics.
- Greater wealth generation from knowledge exploitation. This will build on action already targeted as part of the Deputy First Minister’s Economic Renewal Programme, and on steps already taken following the 2007 Gibson report on commercialisation of knowledge in Wales. More opportunities will also be made available for HE, employers and business to work together on joint research agendas and exploiting intellectual property.
- A stronger postgraduate community in Wales, to help drive economic transformation and innovation, and also to nurture the academic community of the future.
- A more sustainable future for higher education in Wales overall: different providers will more strongly focus on their individual missions and strengths, whether arts, humanities or sciences, while working together to deliver an outstanding higher education experience in Wales.
The Minister said:
“I want to see Higher Education meeting the needs of Wales in the 21st century. The steps that I have announced today represent a bold step forward in making sure that the sector is adaptable and ready for change. I believe that the direction of travel we’ve chosen, based on evidence from Merfyn Jones’ review, will meet the needs of students, employers and business in Wales while ensuring that Higher Education is both vibrant and sustainable in the future.
“As the largest single investor in Higher Education in Wales we expect the sector to meet our expectations. By implementing these innovative plans I expect that additional, significant funding of £31 million per year will be unlocked by 2015/16. This funding will be reinvested into HE allowing us to compete at international level while ensuring that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to access higher learning.”
Related Links‘For Our Future - The 21st Century Higher Education Strategy and Plan for Wales’ is the higher education strategy and plan for Wales. It builds upon and replaces 'Reaching Higher'.Learning is key to personal and economic development, and it doesn’t need to end when you leave school