30% urge scrapping of federal structure

May 27, 2005

While Wales considers a new fees structure, demoralised staff and insufficient income are stalling progress at the country's universities, reports Tony Tysome

Welsh academics are divided over whether the federal University of Wales has a future either as an organisation or an awarding body.

The Times Higher' s poll found that almost a third thought that it should be scrapped, while almost the same proportion felt that it should stay as it is. About a fifth thought it should gradually abandon its degree-awarding role.

But, despite questions over its future, the university has made it clear that it is determined to continue in the long term as a degree-awarding body.

In a statement prepared for The Times Higher , the university says its council is considering proposals for a "radical streamlining of governance and decision-making". The proposals are to be considered by the federal university's council next month.

It says that streamlining would allow the university to concentrate more fully on its two main roles - acting as a degree-awarding body and "promoting the language and culture of Wales".

The university is undergoing an internal review after the departure of Cardiff University from the federal fold and a highly critical Quality Assurance Agency audit report, which said that it had only "limited confidence" in the academic standards of its awards.

Many Welsh higher education leaders expect the university to gradually phase out its degree-awarding function by allowing its member institutions to begin using their own degree-awarding powers or those of other institutions.

Swansea University gained granted degree-awarding powers last week, and Bangor and Aberystwyth are expected to follow suit.

Other institutions, such as Lampeter University and the University of Wales Institute Cardiff already have powers, which are held in abeyance.

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