University of Wales' vetting won't halt ambition

The University of Wales' international business will continue to expand despite its decision to stop validating degrees unless they are "designed and fully controlled" by the institution.

October 6, 2011

David Warner, vice-chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University, one of the institutions that will be merging with the University of Wales, said that the global network of 130 partner colleges can continue their arrangements if they teach UK courses.

"Institutions abroad will take the same programme that we are teaching in Swansea," he said, adding that the same changes will apply to institutions in the UK.

This will replace a much- criticised system under which organisations present their own courses for approval. A total of 70,000 students in 30 countries, including Uzbekistan, Mauritius and Indonesia, are taught degrees validated by the University of Wales.

To make sure that quality is consistent, some University of Wales teachers will work abroad, and the institution will vet staff across the globe, Professor Warner said.

While it was "clear that not all ... will come with us", he said that partners that fit into the new model will be "welcomed with open arms".

"The total size of the business could even grow. Instead of doing two degrees, you could do 20," he said. "I think this will expand the work of the University of Wales."

The old validation system has repeatedly come under fire. This week, the BBC reported on a visa scam by London colleges validated by the university that allowed foreign students to gain work permits more quickly than they should.

The University of Wales, Newport, Glyndwr University and the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, among other Welsh universities, all use University of Wales degrees.

However, these institutions have their own taught degree-awarding powers, and Newport said its courses would not be disrupted by the announcement.

The University of Wales said it would honour its obligations to existing students, and bring in the changes in 2012.

The university validates 54 institutions in the UK. Courses include an MSc in Chinese Herbal Medicine at the Northern College of Acupuncture, which has been strongly criticised by science bloggers.

Questions remain over the future validation of such courses, which are not taught by the University of Wales.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com.

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