Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
On 12 July 2011, the First Minister made a statement on the Legislative Programme for the Welsh Government, including proposals for an Education Bill in 2012.
Today (2 July 2012), I am issuing a White Paper to seek views on proposals for a Further and Higher Education (Wales) Bill. The Bill will include provisions in relation to the following:
- changes to instruments and articles of government
- dissolution of corporations
- greater freedom for colleges to borrow funds
- intervention by the Welsh Government
- reform of the functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales including quality assurance and enhancement of higher education provision
- Welsh Minister’s powers of direct funding of higher education provision to support partnership and collaborative activity
- funding of student unions and purposeful student charters.
The intention of the further education provisions will be to increase the freedom of further education (FE) colleges in Wales, following the decision by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to reclassify FE colleges as part of central government for the purpose of National Accounts. The ONS classification is determined largely by the degree of government control over FE institutions. For financial and operational reasons, the Welsh Government regards the ONS reclassification of FE colleges as undesirable. Through legislation I therefore intend to increase college freedoms in the key areas identified above, and to seek to reverse the reclassification and reinstate colleges as non profit institutions serving households (NPISH).
Relaxing these powers means that the recommendations set out in the independent report on FE governance published in March 2011, which promoted a social enterprise model of governance, will now be implemented in colleges on a voluntary basis. Colegau Cymru have given their assurance that they will continue to promote the Humphreys report as a model of good practice. I will also be reinstating protected places for staff on college boards to ensure that college staff maintain a role in governance in any new arrangements that colleges deploy.
The higher education provisions I am proposing in this Bill reflect the Programme for Government commitments and the introduction of new higher education funding and student support arrangements. These proposals will ensure that Wales has a strong and competitive higher education sector that is fit for purpose and effectively funded.