WELSH further and higher education is likely to see more mergers and collaboration agreements in the next few years, with the support of the funding councils for the respective sectors.
John Andrews, chief executive of the joint funding bodies, pointed to the trend in the annual reports issued last week. "Both councils have encouraged collaboration and integration as the means of helping institutions to cope with the pressures of independence," he said.
Of further education, Professor Andrews said, "While there is a continuing reluctance in many colleges to explore the advantages of collaboration and partnership, there is every expectation that continued financial pressures will lead to further mergers, Both councils will continue to support the merger proposals coming forward from institutions where these are appropriate." He cited the merger in 1996 of Coleg Normal with the University College of North Wales Bangor as a good example.
In higher education, the University of Wales, Lampeter and Trinity College, Carmarthen are discussing collaboration, with merger a possibility, while Swansea Institute of Higher Education is considering closer links with either the city's university or the University of Glamorgan.
In his first annual statement as chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Sir Philip Jones warned that, while HEFCW would continue to press the Welsh office for a better grant, "institutions themselves will have to continue to strive for greater efficiency in using their funds. This will involve painful decisions for many institutions".
The FEFCW report pointed to sharp increases in several areas of student participation, including a 15.2 per cent rise in part-timers in the year from November 1996 and a 33.5 per cent increase in adult basic education enrolments in the 12 months from March 1996. There was also a 44 per cent increase in enrolments on award-bearing vocational courses and a 60 per cent increase in the number of modern apprenticeships.