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Written Statement - Statement on the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Reports on the University of Wales

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

The QAA has published three reports relating to the University of Wales.  The first of these is based on the findings of an institutional review, conducted in October 2010.  I note the QAA's confidence in the management, academic standards and teaching of the University of Wales. 

However, I am concerned that the other two reports are much less positive.  One looks at how the University satisfies itself about the good standing of its partner organisations, focusing on particular partner organisations in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.  The report was produced following concerns raised in the autumn last year about the University of Wales relationships with overseas institutions.  The remaining report, an audit of the University of Wales’ overseas provision in Singapore conducted in 2010-11, focuses on its partnership with one organisation in particular.  Both reports have identified serious weaknesses in the University's external validation arrangements and in its management of its collaborative arrangements. 

I welcome the fact that the QAA proposes to work closely with the University of Wales to agree an action plan, detailing actions completed and progress made.  This will be monitored through regular meetings between the University and QAA officers.

Members will be aware from my previous Statement on 21 March 2011 that I asked the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) to provide me with assurance that the University is addressing issues raised in relation to its quality assurance.  I published subsequent correspondence between myself and the Chair of HEFCW and the Chief Executive of QAA.

As I made clear in that Statement, I expect the University to make progress in responding to the problems that have been identified.  I am deeply concerned that today's reports provide further evidence of serious failings which still need to be addressed. 

I have asked HEFCW to report to me on what scrutiny has been undertaken by the Governing Body of the University of Wales concerning the international activities of the University over the last two years.  I expect the Chair of Council of the University of Wales to demonstrate that he is taking these matters seriously.

As the recent McCormick Review highlighted, good governance is needed at national and institutional level to ensure that Wales’ higher education system is globally competitive, strives for excellence and is responsive to the changing needs of learners.  I expect those holding senior positions of governance in our higher education institutions to exercise effective oversight of their university’s operations in line with their responsibilities as governors.  The reputation of higher education in Wales as a whole is at stake.  It is vital, therefore, that the shortcomings highlighted in these reports are addressed by the University of Wales as a matter of the utmost urgency.