Millions more needed to pay for Welsh shake-up

March 14, 2003

Sweeping reorganisation of Welsh higher education will mean spending "tens of millions of pounds" extra over the next five years, funding council heads have warned the Welsh Assembly.

Three mergers and numerous strategic alliances are being brokered in an effort to bolster institutions' financial position and improve their contributions to economic and educational targets.

The changes have been demanded by the assembly as part of a "something-for-something" funding deal for the next three years.

But this week, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales officials warned that reconfiguration plans were close to the point where they could not proceed further without the promise of "significant levels of higher investment".

The funding council, which launched its three-year corporate plan and corporate strategy to 2010 at the first of its annual public meetings on Monday in Cardiff, is hoping to receive news of more money with its grant letter from the assembly on March 25.

The sector has already received £5 million to get mergers and new alliances under way, and another £10 million has been earmarked for 2004-05, with £30 million more for 2005-06.

Phil Gummett, HEFCW's director of higher education, said significantly more would be needed, including a new tranche for next year, to maintain the momentum of reorganisation that is taking place at "breakneck" speed.

This week the University of Glamorgan and University of Wales Institute in Cardiff voted to pursue a merger that could create the biggest university in Wales and one of the UK's largest.

Plans to merge Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine have won senate approval from both institutions. Bangor University and the North East Wales Institute are also in merger talks.

HEFCW chairman Roger Williams told the meeting: "The real question is, can we fund what we want (the mergers) to do? Those mergers are going to cost a great deal, even if phased over a number of years."

Assembly education minister Jane Davidson said she was considering the case for more funding, but needed "hard evidence" that it would be money well spent.

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