Identity theft

November 3, 2011

The philosopher Gilbert Ryle once sought to explain the notion of a "category mistake" by recalling a tourist in Oxford complaining that he had been round the colleges but still hadn't found the university. By contrast, one can gain a University of Wales degree almost anywhere in the world, but would have difficulty finding any institution that would claim to be part of its collegiate base. The administrative ghost of a once-great Welsh institution has been allowed to trade on a powerful reputation, without anyone charged with its governance bothering to note the fatal decay of a broad and experienced academic and research base that stood guarantor of its teaching and assessment. Wales has thus created the world's first academic bubble.

The bodies bearing responsibility for the reputation and standing of Wales' higher education - the Privy Council, the Quality Assurance Agency and the Welsh Assembly government - need to wake up and act before Trinity St David and Swansea Metropolitan University, together with what is essentially a private company laying claim to the use of a distinguished brand, find yet another perch upon which to nail the old, honoured university badge ("We're not dead, just evolving", October).

The many thousands who studied under the original University of Wales and were justly proud of their degrees do not deserve to see the name and the crest atop their work horse-traded around the country, to be picked up by a tiny amalgam that has yet to establish a recognisable scholarly and research reputation.

In time, no doubt, the newly merged institution will grow and achieve the status that the old University of Wales, in its own time, laboured to win: it has no right, however, to lift the mantle from the corpse. The concept that comes most easily to mind is not evolution, but plagiarism.

Andrew Morgan, Swansea

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