Glyndwr and Bangor being ‘lined up for merger’, says MP

The Welsh university funding council is “pursuing an agenda” to merge troubled Glyndwr University with Bangor University, an MP has suggested.

September 30, 2014

Ian Lucas, who represents Wrexham, said such a proposal would be “entirely unacceptable to me and the people I represent”.

In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Labour MP said he was “very disturbed” to hear from a “number of sources” that the organisation was “pursuing an agenda of merging Glyndwr University with Bangor University”.

Glyndwr has faced an uncertain future after details of serious financial difficulties emerged, with a deficit of nearly £4 million being run up in 2012-13. In March this year, vice-chancellor Michael Scott suffered a unanimous vote of no confidence from the local University and College Union branch after announcing plans to make almost one in 10 staff redundant.

Glyndwr’s highly trusted status for sponsoring the visas of non-European Union students was suspended in June and this embargo is yet to be lifted – putting a significant source of income at risk.

But Mr Lucas said he would do everything in his power to retain Glyndwr’s independent status.

“An independent university in Wrexham with its leadership within the region of north-east Wales is essential to the future of the town and to the region,” he said.

Mr Lucas said the proposal of combining Glyndwr with Bangor or Aberystwyth had been rejected by a review ordered after a merger was first suggested by the Welsh government.

The MP added that he had been seeking a meeting with Hefcw on the issue, without success.

A Bangor University spokeswoman said: “Although Bangor has been willing to assist in order to safeguard the interests of the students at Glyndwr, the comments made are misinformed and there have been no discussions with Hefcw regarding a merger.”

David Blaney, chief executive of Hefcw, said the funding council was in “ongoing dialogue” with Glyndwr over its financial problems and visa suspension.

“We have not pursued an ‘agenda’ of merging Glyndwr University with Bangor University; such a decision would ultimately rest with the governing bodies of the institutions,” Dr Blaney said.

“However, it is no secret that we have believed and still believe – and formally advised the [Welsh education] minister as such on July 2011 – that higher education in North East Wales would have a stronger and more sustainable future as part of a larger structure which would be better able to withstand the current climate of recruitment, funding and international competition. We would therefore be supportive of the university if it explored options for creating a stronger university provision in North East Wales.”

Dr Blaney added that it was “premature for any of us to close our minds” about the future shape of higher education in the area.

He added: “We all bear a responsibility to put those long-term needs ahead of any short-term, parochial consideration of structures, personal interests or histories. In our experience, such matters are rarely helped by being played out in public, or being subject to partial, or ill-informed commentary.”

A Glyndwr spokesman said the university had no comment to make.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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