Year of the Welsh dragon

University of South Wales is a behemoth with plans to become even bigger

April 18, 2013

Source: Alamy

The “cracking” new name for Wales’ latest merged institution is likely to be more recognisable to English students wanting to study in the country, its vice-chancellor has said.

The University of South Wales - a combination of the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport - is the UK’s sixth-biggest university, based on higher education student numbers in 2011-12, with Glamorgan contributing more than two-thirds. Its formation is part of the Welsh government’s wider plan to cut the number of universities in the country through mergers.

Julie Lydon, who was Glamorgan’s vice-chancellor, is heading the new university, which was officially formed last week. She said the new institution would be “professionally focused…a university for business”. This culture would be “slightly more of a change for Newport” than for Glamorgan, she said.

The university has five campuses, located in Cardiff, Newport and near Pontypridd. “Compared to a single-campus university there are some [extra] costs,” Professor Lydon acknowledged, but she insisted that some services could be centralised to save money - enrolment, for example, can be done online.

“We have no plans to close any campuses,” she said. She also revealed that the university is in negotiations to create an overseas campus, but she declined to give any further details while talks were under way.

The new name and brand for the institution marks a different approach to last year’s merger between Swansea Metropolitan University and the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, which have retained their titles and logos.

Professor Lydon said there was no “concrete evidence” that universities that changed their names suffered from an initial dip in applications because students did not recognise the new title.

But “we are anticipating some continued turbulence in the marketplace [of students]”, she said, adding that the aim over the next two to three years would be “stability” of student numbers.

There was one guest conspicuously absent from the wedding, however: Cardiff Metropolitan University, which had been urged by the Welsh government and funding council to join the merger but fought and won a protracted battle to stay independent.

Professor Lydon said that the door was still open, but added: “I think they have laid their stall out clearly.”

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