Welsh reforms aim to hand HEFCW more power on quality

The Welsh funding council will assess how the quality of higher education in the country’s universities can be improved in changes to its powers outlined in a White Paper released by the Cardiff government.

July 3, 2012

The Further and Higher Education (Wales) Bill will also introduce powers for the Welsh government to fund universities directly, bypassing the council.

“The Welsh government considers that under the new tuition fees regime a greater focus on improving the quality of HE provision is necessary,” the document, released on 2 July, says.

The paper rejects improving quality on the “basis of competition and customer choice” in a rebuff to the new English market system.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales currently uses the Quality Assurance Agency to assess Welsh universities, the paper explains.

However, as funding switches away from direct teaching grant from the council and towards student loans, the statutory requirement for HEFCW to assess education that it funds may not cover all courses, it adds.

HEFCW will therefore have a “statutory responsibility for quality enhancement”, the paper proposes.

Specifically, it will produce better public information about quality, encourage a “greater voice” for student representatives in quality processes, and look at how good ways of teaching can be shared.

The Bill will also include powers for universities “to be funded directly by Welsh

ministers in instances where it is strategically appropriate to do so”.

This power could be used if students or employers are not getting what they demand from the system, and to fund partnerships between schools and further education colleges, the paper explains.

A “single funding stream” from the government could cut bureaucracy and create economies of scale, it argues.

Philip Gummett, chief executive of HEFCW, said: “We welcome the publication of the White Paper and will study the potential implications for us as a body, and for HE in Wales more generally.”

The White Paper calls for consultation responses by 24 September.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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