Three Welsh universities have been warned in an official report that they face a "spiral of decline" unless they set aside past grievances to collaborate or merge.
The three post-92 universities in Southeast Wales - Glamorgan, the University of Wales Institute Cardiff and University of Wales Newport - must work together with a view to a possible merger, according to the report commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. It says the institutions must redouble their efforts despite the collapse of negotiations between Glamorgan and Uwic.
Uwic and Newport are discussing a merger, but the report warns that Glamorgan must be included or at least one of the three universities will lapse into "serious decline".
The report follows a HEFCW-commissioned review of higher education in the region after an inquiry into the failed Uwic-Glamorgan merger.
Its authors, Sir Ron Cooke and John Bull, former vice-chancellors of York and Plymouth universities respectively, believe that there is too much overlap in subjects between the three institutions and argue that their individual research outputs and financial positions are weak.
But, in the short term, "marked antagonism" and "deep mistrust" between Uwic and Glamorgan will make reopening merger talks difficult, they say.
Their report concludes that a way forward must be found that will let the Uwic-Newport merger proceed while allowing collaboration with Glamorgan and ensuring "the door is kept open" for a tripartite merger.
It recommends that a high-level strategy board should co-ordinate work towards more collaboration between the three institutions, including the creation of inter-university "institutes" that would pool expertise and resources in complementary disciplines.
Roger Williams, chairman of the HEFCW, said the council would take the report's conclusions "carefully into account" and would discuss them with leaders of the three institutions.