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Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education

First published:
14 July 2020
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Following my Written Statement of 9 June 2020, today I announce the consultation on the Draft Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill.  The consultation will open today and close on 4 December 2020.  The Welsh Government has already engaged widely with stakeholders throughout the development of these reforms and I have been grateful for all your valuable feedback.  This has helped us further develop policy and draft the legislation which I believe is now able to provide flexibility for the Commission, once established, to develop and operate as an independent arms-length body.  

It is crucial that we get these reforms right and we cannot afford to delay them indefinitely.  This legislation presents an opportunity to ensure that the Welsh post-compulsory education and training sector operates effectively in the post Covid-19 context. Having meaningful engagement with our stakeholders on the substance of this Draft Bill will ensure that we shape the system so it’s fit to face our future challenges. 

The Bill as drafted, dissolves the Higher Education and Funding Council for Wales and establishes a new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research.  The new Commission will be responsible for the whole of the tertiary education sector in Wales and will include Research and Innovation Wales as a committee of the new Commission.  

The Commission will be placed under a duty to promote the pursuit of a civic mission by further and higher education institutions to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing of the communities they serve and Wales as a whole.  This has never been more important than it is now.

The Draft Bill puts learners at the centre of the reforms and includes specific provisions to protect them in uncertain times, as well as, introducing a requirement for the Commission to publish a new code for learner engagement in the governance and management of providers.  

The Commission will enable greater cohesion across the tertiary education sector by clearly promoting learner pathways, including how learners transition between compulsory and post-compulsory education.  The Commission will be tasked with strengthening collaboration to boost quality and efficiency through more coherent oversight structures to lead, support, monitor and evaluate the tertiary education sector against national, regional and local objectives.  The Commission will be able to do this as we bring funding, oversight and support of Higher Education, Further Education, school sixth forms and apprenticeships, as well as responsibility for currently Welsh Government funded higher level research and innovation, together in one place.    

The Draft Bill will require the Commission to publish a strategic plan for tertiary education and research, create a new registration model for tertiary education providers.

The Commission will also assure and promote improvement in the quality and standards of education and training in the tertiary education sector, creating a consistent quality based approach through shared principles and collaboration. 

Stakeholder events on the Draft Bill are planned between September and November and I would encourage anyone with an interest in these reforms to engage with the range of opportunities I will make available to help the people of Wales respond to this consultation. 

Whilst it will ultimately be a decision for the next Government, chosen by the people of Wales, as to whether these reforms are delivered, I am determined to do all I can to ensure a robust and comprehensive piece of legislation, informed by the results of this Draft Bill consultation, is ready for introduction into the Senedd early in the new term.