Uwic and Newport's merger talks collapse

July 29, 2005

The future of higher education in southeast Wales was in question this week as a second effort by the University of Wales Institute Cardiff to merge with one of its neighbours collapsed.

Governors at Uwic and the University of Wales Newport said they had postponed talks that began five months ago with a view to merging in September 2006. Uwic's merger talks with Glamorgan University failed in 2003.

Jane Davidson, the Welsh Assembly Education Minister, said it was "essential for the sake of the institutions, their staff, students, the people and the economy" that the three post-1992 institutions in southeast Wales "plan their futures together".

Newport's statement says merger with Uwic is off the agenda because the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales refused to fund a merger business plan unless a tripartite planning group for southeast Wales, which includes Glamorgan, was set up.

James Lusty, Newport's vice-chancellor, said that this would take too long. "If merger discussions were to continue for a lengthy period, there would be a significant danger of staff diverting attention away from other strategic goals," he said.

"Postponing the merger will enable Newport to pursue its other goals, which include obtaining research degree-awarding powers, widening access and regional development activities."

The funding condition follows a HEFCW report that warned that higher education in the region faced "a spiral of decline" unless the three institutions merged or built partnerships.

But Glamorgan said it would be "concerned about agreeing a merger process" after suffering "an extended period of planning blight and merger fatigue" in the wake of its failed talks with Uwic two years ago.

Lecturers' union Natfhe said it would be seeking meetings with governors of all three institutions in a bid to keep merger hopes alive. Its Uwic members will ballot for industrial action in September if no significant progress is made to safeguard jobs.

* The University of Wales has committed itself to an overhaul that will give some member institutions the option to go it alone.

A working group concluded that the 112-year-old university should become a confederation of institutions accredited to award its degrees. The present ten members will eventually take responsibility for their own academic standards and degrees.

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