Welsh go for single identity

May 25, 2001

Welsh higher education heads are to consider a "one nation, one university" scheme to unify institutions under the University of Wales banner.

The move, which could involve Welsh further education colleges, would create the United Kingdom's second largest university.

It would mean giving equal status to all Welsh higher education institutions - bringing five more under the University of Wales umbrella - and introducing a unified degree structure across the country.

The University of Glamorgan, Swansea Institute of Higher Education, North East Wales Institute of Higher Education, Trinity College Carmarthen and the Welsh College of Music and Drama would join the University of Wales club.

Institutions would be organised into geographical clusters, which might include further education colleges that wanted to take part, to make collaboration and cooperative regional planning easier.

The proposals from the University of Wales' council and Higher Education Wales - the organisation that represents higher education heads - are being considered as part of the Welsh Assembly's review of higher education.

In a presentation to the assembly's review committee, David Warner, principal of Swansea Institute, said there was a "strong consensus" among HEW members on the main thrust of the proposals, although there was a "vast amount of work" to be done on the detail.

It is expected that the HEW, which met on Wednesday, will set up a working group to develop a more detailed version of the model.

The assembly has asked the Welsh funding councils and the HEW to look into the funding implications. The HEW has suggested that a methodology that promotes collaboration rather than competition be introduced.

Professor Warner said the move to single university status and reorganisation into clusters would not mean the loss of individual institutions' autonomy.

But it would mean creating a stronger national and international brand, forging teaching and research partnerships, dispensing with wasteful and damaging competition by rationalising overlapping provision and boosting widening participation opportunities.

Another benefit would be added protection for smaller institutions that have been hit hard by recruitment problems.

The assembly's higher education review is due to be completed by July.

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