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Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language

First published:
1 November 2021
Last updated:

The Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill and Explanatory Memorandum have today been laid before Senedd Cymru.

This Bill was the subject of extensive consultation and engagement with the public and stakeholders. It establishes a new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research as an arms-length body, and dissolves the Higher and Education Funding Council for Wales.

The Commission will be responsible for the whole of the tertiary education sector in Wales, with legal responsibility for the funding, oversight and quality of tertiary education in Wales along with the registration of providers. This will bring higher education, further education, local authority maintained school sixth forms, apprenticeships, and adult community learning, as well as responsibility for research and innovation, together in one place.

A principal aim of establishing the Commission is to have a single national steward of Wales’s tertiary education and research sector. In delivering on this objective, the Bill places nine strategic duties on the Commission to:-

(a) encourage participation in tertiary education

(b) promote:

  • life-long learning 
  • equality of opportunity
  • continuous improvement in tertiary education and research
  • collaboration and coherence in tertiary education and research
  • tertiary education through the medium of Welsh
  • a civic mission
  • a global outlook

(c) contribute to a sustainable and innovative economy.

Welsh Ministers are required to set out the strategic priorities for tertiary education and research in a statement of priorities. Together with the above duties, these establish the strategic planning framework for the Commission. In response, it is required to develop, consult on and publish a strategic plan for tertiary education and research setting out how it will discharge its duties and address the Welsh Ministers’ priorities.

The Bill requires that the Commission promotes continuous improvement in the quality and standards of education and training in the tertiary education and research sector, creating a consistent quality based approach through shared principles and collaboration.  The Bill places duties on the Commission in relation to Welsh-medium tertiary education, and through its funding powers, it will be enabled to broaden the choice for learners to study through the medium of Welsh. The Bill requires that the Welsh Ministers and the Commission have regard to the importance of protecting academic freedom of providers of higher education in Wales and the freedom of speech of academic staff at these providers when exercising their functions under the Bill.

The Commission will be required to operate a new registration model for tertiary education providers. The new model will be a flexible mechanism for accountable, but proportionate, oversight of the tertiary education sector. Through regulations, there will be categories of registration each with conditions, including quality of education, the governance and management of institutions, their financial sustainability, and advancing equality of opportunity and access in tertiary education. The Bill enables the Commission to fund registered providers for higher education and research and innovation activities, as well as bodies collaborating with registered providers.

The Bill puts learners at the centre of the reforms and includes specific provisions to protect them when required, as well as introducing a requirement for the Commission to prepare, consult on and publish a new code for learner engagement across all of tertiary education.

The Bill requires the Commission to secure proper facilities for 16-19 education, and for the first time in Wales, creates a duty to secure proper facilities for specified education or training for eligible adults, demonstrating our commitment to expanding lifelong learning. 

The Bill also creates a new standalone power for the Commission to fund apprenticeships in the same way as other tertiary education, the effect of which will be to enable a system in Wales that is more responsive to the needs of learners, the economy and employers. The Commission is enabled to fund the preparation of Welsh apprenticeship frameworks as well as the provision of approved Welsh apprenticeships. By reforming the process for the design and oversight of our apprenticeship frameworks, the Bill creates the opportunity for them to be flexible and fit for purpose.

The Bill enables the Commission to collect, process, link, analyse and report on data in relation to the whole tertiary education sector. The Commission will be able to oversee the sector’s work and performance, to set and monitor its strategic and operational priorities, and distribute funds in accordance with its statutory responsibilities.

I shall be making a legislative statement in Plenary on Wednesday 3rd November. A copy of the Bill and its supporting documentation is available here. I look forward to working with the Senedd during its consideration of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill over the coming months.