Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
In my statement to the National Assembly for Wales on 17 July 2012 I outlined the progress being made in relation to the reconfiguration of higher education in south east Wales. I announced a planned period of statutory consultation on the proposed dissolutions of Cardiff Metropolitan University higher education corporation and the University of Wales, Newport higher education corporation with a view to creating a new metropolitan university serving the whole of south east Wales by merging those institutions with the University of Glamorgan.
I wrote to the institutions concerned on 6 August with details of the Strategic Outline Case for both the Government’s preferred option of a merger between all three institutions and, as a less beneficial solution though one which would still offer substantial educational gains, a merger between the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport alone.
The University of Glamorgan and The University of Wales, Newport continue to make swift progress towards merger before the end of 2013. I welcome their commitment to improving higher education provision in the region and will consider carefully their formal responses to the current statutory consultation in due course.
I am, however, concerned by the publication this week of the Sunday Times University league table which shows that Cardiff Metropolitan University has fallen 17 places from its position in 2011 to 109th out of 122 institutions listed. Sadly, Cardiff Metropolitan has also done poorly in the rankings relating to student satisfaction in the National Student Survey and its graduates achieve some of the lowest salaries among UK graduates.
Cardiff Metropolitan University has requested substantial additional information to supplement the Strategic Outline Case. As I reminded the Assembly in July, higher education reconfiguration has been a longstanding objective of successive Welsh Governments, from the publication of 'Wales: The Learning Country’ in 2001, through to our current higher education strategy, 'For our Future’. The policy has enjoyed all-party support in the Assembly. It has been a prominent feature of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’ corporate strategy. Over a year ago, I published the report from HEFCW on the future structure of higher education in Wales in response to which I received some 400 written representations from stakeholders, including Cardiff Metropolitan University.
Although I continue to believe that all consultees affected by these proposals have sufficient information available to them to respond meaningfully to the consultation process, in the interests of fairness, I have asked officials to make available to all parties to the consultation the information requested as quickly as possible. I also propose to commence a further 12 week period of consultation from the date on which the information is provided.
The Welsh Government remains committed to the development of a higher education sector in Wales based on a smaller number of stronger universities. We look forward to the further evidence resulting from the consultation responses.