Controversial plans to merge Glyndwr University with either Bangor or Aberystwyth appear to have been scrapped today by the Welsh Assembly’s Minister for Education Leighton Andrews.
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’ (HEFCW) had proposed that Glyndwr be “led” by either Bangor or Aberystwyth meaning it would effectively lose its university status.
The plans, which are part of HEFCW’s strategic plan to cut the number of Welsh universities from eleven to six, were met by stiff opposition from the local community with both Wrexham Council and a number of businesses figureheads writing to the funding council in opposition.
However, at the Senedd today Leighton Andrews appeared to call an end to the merger plans as he rejected their proposals.
In an address to Assembly Members he said: “HEFCW advised that Glyndŵr University should develop strong structural relationships with a range of further education colleges within a group structure led by Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities.
“I have not accepted this advice. After considering representations made, it appears to me that there is a case for considering more closely the existing pattern of HE provision in North East Wales and for examining further the options for securing greater regional coherence in the delivery of further and higher education. I shall make a further announcement on this in due course.”
Professor Michael Scott, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Glyndŵr University said: “We welcome today’s statement from the minister.
“During the consultation process it has been encouraging and pleasing to see recognised the importance of Glyndŵr University to the people and economy of North East Wales, as well as to the country as a whole.
“This is clearly demonstrated by the university’s curriculum and also its research strategy, both of which are directed towards economic and social development.
“Since the recommendations were originally made by HEFCW we have been delighted at the huge number of responses we have received from employers, students and the general public. Their support has reinforced our conviction that Glyndŵr University is a focal point for the region and is growing in stature day by day.”
“Our purchase of the Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium earlier this year reflected our commitment to the community, while our groundbreaking partnership with social purpose company A4e is set to extend the opportunities higher education offers to more people than ever.”
Mr Andrews has indicated he will look more widely at the provision of higher education in North East Wales, in particular the links between higher and further education.
Professor Scott said: “We look forward to engaging with any future process to look at the overall picture in North Wales, and believe it will offer us the opportunity to build on our many achievements so far, and to go even further in demonstrating our commitment to leading economic growth as a strong, independent university and to increasing the opportunities.”
Glyndwr University currently holds no debts, loans or mortgages and was able to buy the Racecourse Ground and Colliers Park for £1.8million earlier this year due having an excess of £1.2million for the current financial year.
Additionally 94.3% of the university’s graduates are in meaningful employment or further education, well above the national average of 88%.
At an executive board meeting in September Cllr Alun Jenkins said it would have been “a disaster” if the town lost its university.