Politician warns Welsh will flock to leave unless alliance shifts

November 18, 2005

A leading Welsh politician has warned that the University of Wales needs to change radically if it is to retain some of its biggest member institutions.

Janet Ryder, education spokeswoman for Plaid Cymru, told The Times Higher this week that there was a "significant risk" that Swansea, Bangor and Aberystwyth universities would follow Cardiff in leaving the federal institution unless it was prepared to modernise.

She warned: "If that happens, it will lose the value of its brand, which is what is keeping other institutions in. Welsh higher education needs to retain the federal university. But there will need to be some changes for that to happen."

In July last year, Cardiff University decided to leave the 112-year-old federal university and go it alone using its own degree-awarding powers.

The move was described by some higher education leaders as a "fatal blow"

to the University of Wales as a degree-awarding institution as it was feared other Welsh institutions would follow suit.

But the University of Wales's senior vice-chancellor, Tony Chapman, claims that most Welsh institutions are likely to stay in the federal fold - despite moves this year to allow them greater independence.

In June, an internal review of the university, chaired by pro chancellor Dafydd Wigley, concluded that the university should abandon its federal structure to become a "confederation of institutions" accredited to award its degrees.

The ten member institutions will in time take on responsibility for their own academic standards and quality assurance, and those with degree-awarding powers will be free to use them as well as awarding University of Wales degrees.

But Professor Chapman said this week that institutions were unlikely to seek full independence because they valued the University of Wales brand, especially for its currency overseas.

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