Dean defends Cardiff University’s health research shift

Head says changes that could lead to 60 redundancies will allow medical school to focus on strengths without harming Welsh healthcare

July 9, 2015
John Bligh, Cardiff University
Source: Cardiff University

The decision by Cardiff University’s medical school to focus its research on areas of strength to achieve league table success will not damage healthcare in Wales, its dean has insisted.

The school, which employs about 500 academics, trains the lion’s share of Welsh doctors. Critics of the Medic Forward programme – which could result in about 60 academics being made redundant – have expressed concern that by focusing only on certain areas, doctors’ training, and consequently healthcare, will suffer.

Critics are particularly concerned about cardiovascular research – as heart disease is Wales’ biggest killer. A business case for Cardiff’s withdrawing from the research field, seen by Times Higher Education, cites the area’s over-reliance on “key individuals”, “minimal” evidence of successful translation into “patient benefit” and declining external income. But critics have said that leading cardiologists will be reluctant to come to Cardiff if it has no research base.

The medical school’s dean, John Bligh, said that the institution took its social responsibilities “very seriously”.

He admitted that it was focused on being consistently ranked among the top 10 UK medical schools but said that this would benefit Wales because it would attract top clinicians and fulfil Welsh taxpayers’ expectations of excellence. Wales “deserves a first-class medical school”, he said, which involved focusing on Cardiff’s strengths rather than “dabbling in everything”.

He denied that the school was pulling out of heart research entirely, noting that its recent opening of a division of population medicine would allow it to “take a very significant interest in cardiovascular diseases”.

He also dismissed concerns that Medic Forward’s leaders were conflicted because their own research stood to benefit from the redirection of internal resources and space. Nor, as some have claimed, were redundancy criteria being applied arbitrarily, he said.

Professor Bligh was unable to say how many redundancies there would be before the statutory consultation period ends next month, but THE understands that there are currently 58 academics at risk.

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Reader's comments (2)

Perhaps Cardiff should have appointed their Dean of Medicine (and other key posts) after external advertising and/or a wide search as happens in other Universities; would be a good way of enhancing credibility of what is rapidly looking like a minor player that has lost its way
"He admitted that it was focused on being consistently ranked among the top 10 UK medical schools " I hope that all those newspapers that are obsessed with creating league tables, and the university management who are obsessed with their position in them (even though they don't even exist officially) are proud of themselves. They have put that obsession ahead of the future of healthcare in Wales.

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