Union members have called for the future of Glyndwr University to be resolved swiftly, warning that speculation about a possible merger with Bangor University is not good for staff and students.
The troubled institution’s University and College Union branch has questioned whether Glyndwr’s main Wrexham campus would be fully or partially closed if the controversial merger ever became a reality, while also expressing concern about potential job losses.
The outlook for Glyndwr has been debated since Ian Lucas, the MP for Wrexham, wrote to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales saying that he had heard that it was “pursuing an agenda” towards a merger, which he said would be “entirely unacceptable to me and the people I represent”.
David Blaney, the funding council’s chief executive, denied that there was any “agenda” as any decision was a matter for the universities’ governing bodies. However, he added, it was “no secret” that his organisation believed that higher education in North East Wales “would have a stronger and more sustainable future as part of a larger structure”.
In letters to Hefcw and Glyndwr’s board of governors, seen by Times Higher Education, the union branch calls for “clarity” about any merger, “detailing specifically the implications for the Wrexham campus in terms of either full or partial closure or the level of anticipated job losses”.
Alternatively, the union says, the funding council and the board should issue statements that either offer support for Glyndwr vice-chancellor Michael Scott and set out a strategy to return the university to financial stability, or disclose a timetable for the appointment of a new vice-chancellor.
“The present lack of clarity will not help the university, its staff or its students,” the union writes. “The financial issues that the university is facing are not about to disappear and are likely to progress into the next academic year unless prompt action is taken.”
Glyndwr ran up a deficit of nearly £4 million in 2012-13, and in March this year Professor Scott suffered a unanimous vote of no confidence from the UCU branch after announcing plans to make almost one in 10 staff redundant.
Another significant source of income was put at risk in June when the university’s highly trusted status for sponsoring the visas of non-European Union students was suspended.
Mr Lucas told THE that a university that did not have its leadership rooted in North East Wales would not serve the region’s economy and would represent a serious blow to the area’s identity, and claimed that consistent underfunding from Hefcw was partly to blame for Glyndwr’s predicament.
The UCU branch argued that Glyndwr’s security would be best served by a joining a federation with further education institution Coleg Cambria, fearing that higher education provision may be relocated in the event of a merger with Bangor. It believes that poor management lies behind the university’s problems.
But UCU Wales has backed the idea of Bangor supporting Coleg and Glyndwr in a federal structure, warning that it might otherwise be difficult to develop higher education beyond foundation degrees in Wrexham.
A Glyndwr spokesman said that the university had no comment to make.