Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
Since its founding by Royal Charter in 1893, the University of Wales has played an important role in the delivery of higher education in Wales. It has made a significant contribution to the country's academic and cultural life. The landscape of higher education has changed considerably since the University was first established and it is now time to look to the future.
I have already made clear my views on the University of Wales' overseas activities, which have also attracted considerable publicity. In the recent past, concerns have been raised in relation to the University of Wales' management, academic standards and teaching. I am pleased that the University has made good progress in responding to the problems that have been identified. I welcome the fact that the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has worked closely with the University and with the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to agree and monitor an action plan to address the identified failings.
I am very grateful for the energy and commitment of the University's Vice Chancellor, Professor Medwin Hughes, in coming to terms with the issues facing the institution.
HEFCW's report, Future Structure of Universities in Wales (2011), recommended a merger between the University of Wales: Trinity St David and Swansea Metropolitan University, 'potentially but not necessarily also with the University of Wales'. The UWTSD's written response to the report restated its commitment to this merger and to delivering a transformed University of Wales. I have already said that I have accepted HEFCW's advice and I welcome the moves made by these institutions towards implementing HEFCW’s recommendations to strengthen the delivery of higher education in South West Wales.
In October 2011, Professor Hughes announced that the University of Wales would stop validating degree courses at all other institutions in the UK and abroad with effect from the start of the 2012 academic year. I recognise that, whilst the University of Wales requires careful management, there are good things about the institution which need preserving.
My officials have continued to discuss with the University of Wales how to ensure the safeguarding of certain of its Welsh activities and assets. These include discussions about the future of Gregynog and the Centre for Advanced Welsh Studies.
Professor Hughes wrote to me recently, outlining the current position of the University of Wales and the work that it has been doing on these matters, including making future arrangements for its assets as well as its validation activities. A copy of Professor Hughes' letter is attached to this statement as I believe that it is in the public interest for this information to be made available. Professor Hughes will soon be making a statement himself, plotting a course for the many activities of the University of Wales that continue to hold national importance, as suggested in the letter.
Like all other Welsh higher education institutions, the University of Wales must seek to adapt to the challenges facing it in the twenty first century. I believe that the proposals which have been put forward by HEFCW, should they come to fruition, provide an opportunity for it to do so.