Leighton Andrews, Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning
I wish to update members on issues surrounding the University of Wales.
Members will be aware from my previous Statement on 17 November 2010 that I asked the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to evaluate the issues of quality management raised by the BBC Week in Week Out programme. I asked HEFCW to provide me with assurance that the University is realistically addressing these issues. My Statement also referred to correspondence with Mr Anthony McLaren, Chief Executive of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) concerning their quality inspections of the University.
I am publishing the subsequent letters that I have received from the Chair of HEFCW and the Chief Executive of QAA and my responses.
It is clear that while the University has made some progress in responding to identified problems, a number of issues still need addressing. In particular, the University continues to validate new centres for taught provision despite widespread concerns about the risks associated with this model. It is also of concern that the QAA have had to initiate an investigation into the management of quality at Turning Point Business School (TPBS) as a consequence of a number of student complaints. It is essential that validation and oversight of overseas provision in higher education maintains the highest of standards. Failure to maintain such standards places the international reputation of Wales’ higher education institutions at risk.
Given the continued reports of quality problems in the University of Wales’ overseas work, I have asked HEFCW to identify and advise me as to how closely the governing body of the University has oversight of these issues. I have also asked Mr McLaren to ensure that the QAA keeps officials updated of progress in the inspection of the University’s dealings with TPBS.
I will be publishing the Report of the McCormick Review into Higher Education Governance tomorrow. This has concluded that the University has to change radically if it is to make any contribution to Wales and its culture. The Report was clear that such change not only has to address the issues of quality but also tackle questions surrounding the University’s structure and its future role in the landscape of Welsh higher education.
The proposals for the organisational merger of University Wales Trinity St David, Swansea Metropolitan University and University Wales Institute Cardiff under the banner of the University of Wales is an attempt to resolve these issues. This proposal must fully meet the requirements expressed in the McCormick Review. If it does not, then I expect the University of Wales to work along with HEFCW and my officials to adopt one of the other options identified by that Report.