This city isn't big enough for the both of us

February 5, 2009

Swansea may not be big enough for two universities, according to Richard Davies, vice-chancellor of the University of Swansea.

Speaking to Times Higher Education last week, Professor Davies said that he still believes a merger between his institution and Swansea Metropolitan University should be considered, despite Swansea Met's rejection of the idea.

Last year his merger plans were leaked to a local newspaper within a few hours of Swansea Met (formerly the Swansea Institute) gaining its university title.

Professor Davies raised the issue again at the university court's annual general meeting last month, noting that "questions have been asked" about whether the city is big enough for two institutions.

He told Times Higher Education that "Swansea is a small place to have two universities" and that the Welsh Assembly's aim was to reduce the number of higher education institutions in Wales.

"There is no clear institutional view on a merger but given Assembly pressure we should examine the benefits," he said. "My instinct is that there could be advantages in a merger. There are a number of activities (at Swansea Met) which... could add value."

But David Warner, vice-chancellor of Swansea Met, said: "I think it is to Swansea's advantage to have two universities, especially two that are complementary."

He pointed out that there are smaller cities with two universities, and that Cardiff has three.

With a surplus of more than 9 per cent, Swansea Met is also in a stronger financial position than Swansea. According to its latest financial statement, Swansea's reserves are "low when compared with other higher education institutions".

The two universities already collaborate, with Trinity College Carmarthen, through the South West Wales Higher Education Partnership, singled out for praise in a recent Welsh Audit Office report.

A Welsh Assembly spokesperson said its policy is "to encourage collaboration wherever it provides greater opportunity for... gaining efficiencies", but that mergers were up to the institutions themselves.

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