Sir Adrian Webb called back to reflect on direction of Glyndwr University

Review group to reconvene over future of higher education in North Wales

May 21, 2015


The future of Glyndwr University is being reconsidered by the Welsh government, as the institution posts another multimillion-pound loss.

Times Higher Education has learned that ministers have asked Sir Adrian Webb, who led a review that considered Glyndwr’s future which was published in 2013, to reconvene with members of his review group to consider how his recommendations “might be taken forward”.

Sir Adrian has been told to look at “progress to date with the original recommendations and to consider options as put forward by institutions for the future development of higher education in this part of Wales”, a government spokesman said.

The discussions are likely to be given added urgency by Glyndwr’s continuing financial difficulties, which were underlined by the publication this month – long after most other UK higher education institutions – of the university’s accounts for 2013-14. These confirm a deficit of about £4 million for 2013-14, similar to 2012-13.

While most of the 2013-14 loss was made up of one-off costs, these came in a year when Glyndwr received £10.8 million in tuition fees from full-time international students, the majority of whom were enrolled at the university’s London campus.

It is unclear whether Glyndwr will be able to rely on such revenue in future, since it was ordered in November to close this site amid allegations that some students’ language qualifications were invalid.

The university said the process of relocating to a new campus in the capital was “under way” but, at present, its sponsorship licence allows it to recruit about 100 international students to its Wrexham site only.

Glyndwr received a cash advance from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales in March this year in order to “meet its peak forecast funding requirements”, the accounts reveal. This has now been repaid.

Graham Upton, the interim vice-chancellor, told THE he was working to “put the university back on a firm footing”.

“We are disappointed to announce a deficit…but anticipated these results and are now building for the future and implementing a strategy that will bring about financial stability,” Professor Upton said.

The 2013-14 accounts reveal that, although Glyndwr made an £894,000 surplus on its normal operations, this was wiped out by the £1.4 million cost of a voluntary severance scheme.

In addition, Glyndwr wrote off the £1.1 million value of its business in London owing to the winding down of its operations there, and spent £1.3 million on legal costs, some of which were associated with claims by students affected by the suspension of the university’s sponsorship licence.

The rest of the deficit was largely made up of a £1.2 million loss at a subsidiary, OpTIC Glyndwr, up from £900,000 the year before.

Penny Anderson, the president of Glyndwr University Students’ Guild, credited Professor Upton with bringing “some stability and direction” to the institution since he was appointed in January, but warned that the reliance on international student income had to end.

“It is clear there remain serious financial problems facing the university and that a sustainable, stable basis needs to be in place for students to have full confidence in the institution’s future,” she said.

Sir Adrian’s original review recommended the formation of a federation between Glyndwr and Coleg Cambria, a nearby further education college, and also suggested that a federation with Bangor University be considered.

Since the Bangor link-up has gained little traction, the formation of a partnership with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David has also been floated, THE understands.

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