Progress slow on mergers

March 7, 2003

Plans for mergers and "reconfiguration" in Welsh higher education have run into opposition from vice-chancellors, governors and staff, funding heads have said, write Tony Tysome and Clive Betts.

Worries about job losses, governance issues and the impact of mergers on institutional titles and brands are hampering progress towards the restructuring demanded by the Welsh Assembly.

Leaders of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales told the assembly's education and lifelong learning committee that progress was slow in the face of resistance.

Presenting evidence on progress towards goals in the Assembly's ten-year higher education strategy, HEFCW chairman Roger Williams said: "The kind of problems we are seeing in Wales have been seen already in England, where it has proved extremely difficult to get mergers to take place. In Wales, you get opposition from vice-chancellors, chairmen of councils, from the staff or from the hinterland. Our task is to negotiate our way around these."

The assembly has said that future funding increases will be on the condition that mergers and new strategic alliances are set up to strengthen Welsh higher education. Mergers are being discussed between Cardiff University and the University of Wales College of Medicine, the University of Glamorgan and University of Wales Institute Cardiff, and Bangor University and the North East Wales Institute.

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