A report into higher education in the area has proposed that Glyndwr University and Coleg Cambria create a ‘hard wired’ federalised connection.
In February 2012 a review panel was appointed to undertake a review of higher education provider in north east Wales, and yesterday’s report is the output from that. The report focuses extensively on Glyndwr University, primarily because it is the largest provider of higher education in the area. Several options are discussed, with maintaining the status quo ‘rapidly dismissed’ and ‘not an option’.
Glyndwr’s total student population totals 9,535, which includes ‘franchised provision’ and students studying at campuses outside of north east Wales. Of this figure 4,055 were from overseas – a figure of just over 42%.
7,500 are enrollments at campuses based in north east Wales, and the second highest provider is stated as being the Open University with 1,132 people enrolled.
The report states Glyndwr turned over £48.3m in 2011/12, placing it in the lower quartile of income for UK Higher Education. Details were given of the latest Quality Assurance Agency report for the university, which said “Confidence can be placed in the soundness of Glyndwr’s current and future management of the quality of its academic programmes and the academic standards of its awards.”
‘Deterioration’ of league table rankings are highlighted, showing that ‘Glyndwr appears at a relatively low position in all UK university league tables, showing there has been some deterioration in the university’s ranking across several of the tables in the past 12 months. However this is followed up with reference to Glyndwr’s graduate employability, in which the university has ‘consistently performed very well.’
One issue highlighted is a flow of higher education students from the region outwards to the north of England, with the demographics involved specifically mentioned as ‘broad’ rather than of any particular group.
A lack of strategic direction is mentioned with the University described as “acting opportunistically within a commitment to survival rather than having a strategic approach to the balance of provision needed or to improvement of its standing.”
The report does make several recommendations, including:
- A ‘federal model’ created between Glyndwr University and Coleg Cambria, with ‘the two institutions would remain independent, but the relationship would be hard-wired’.
- “Stronger, more strategic relationship leading to joint provision across the two institutions” between Glyndwr and the University of Chester.
- Parallel ‘pursuit’ of a federal model between Glyndwr and Bangor University.
- A full on merger between the University of Chester and Glyndwr is rejected despite it ‘offering the great synergies and be the most logical in theory’
Sustainability of the university is highlighted, with a paragraph stating: “While Glyndwr informed us that the institution is currently financially sound, there are a number of real threats which could significantly impact on future viability, investment and development.”
Glyndwr went further to give detail that they have retained surpluses and no debt, however in the next paragraph the report states: “It is conceivable that survival as a meaningful university could become an issue for Glyndŵr in the future”. However the report also adds ‘None of this means Glyndŵr will face a survival crisis’.
Local football fans will be interested in page 68 of the report which mentions the purchase of the Racecourse ground. The report states: “The university continually expressed to us the key role that it plays in the region and Wrexham in particular. The university highlighted its decision to purchase the Racecourse Football Ground as a clear demonstration of this commitment. We were informed that the football ground not only offered a cost effective solution to the university’s need for increased space and facilities on campus, but that it was also ‘appropriate from a community perspective‘”. The acquisition of the football ground was also mentioned in a section referring to discussions with ‘stakeholders’, with ”a few questioned the purchase of the football ground as a priority”.
The Review Panel heard from two serving and three former Chairs of Governors of Glyndwr/NEWI as it was, with the report saying they believed the university had ‘lost focus, especially with regard to meeting the needs of the region, and as a result it has been operating in a “pseudo-entrepreneurial and opportunist manner” driven perhaps by challenging circumstances and the need to gain critical mass and student numbers. The acquisition of the London base and the purchase of the Football Stadium were noted in this context‘.
A full merger between Glyndwr and Coleg Cambria has been dismissed despite it being a ‘very attractive proposition’. However the door has been left open as it is described as ‘not an immediate option’. The college itself has recently been involved in a ‘merger’, with Deeside and Yale College combining together to create ‘Coleg Cambria’.
The report provides information on the ‘federal’ model stating:”To use the term “federal” in the context of Welsh HE is to evoke comparisons with the University of Wales. In this instance, we would rather use the analogy of Welsh devolution.
“We envisage a hard wired federation based on the “reserved powers” version of devolution proposed by the Welsh Government to the second phase of the Silk Commission’s work.
“The organisations involved would remain independent institutions and yet the relationship would be “hard-wired” by virtue of the powers reserved to a strategic body drawn from those institutions: the separate institutions would retain all their powers except those specifically entrusted to the over-arching body.”
Such a model is preferred with Coleg Cambria rather than with Bangor University, with the report stating that they believe a ‘federal relationship between Glyndwr University and Coleg Cambria would help deliver on the aspiration/participation and skills objectives and the broadening of Glyndŵr’s contribution to the whole of the NE Wales region’.The report added that this will also remove any long-standing uncertainty regarding the future of the university.
A Glyndwr University spokesperson said yesterday afternoon: “We are pleased the review recognised that having a university in North East Wales has brought an enormous sense of pride to the region, and that we are responsive to the needs of employers and the economy, as well as our students. The report makes reference to some of the University’s recent academic achievements, including its excellent review by the Quality Assurance Agency.
“Like the Minister, Glyndŵr University has the higher education needs of the region at the forefront of everything it does. We will be examining the report in great detail and look forward to further engagements with the Minister, our FE partners and other stakeholders in the months ahead.”
If todays report is accepted it is recommended that such a model is created with 18 months, however in the interim it is suggested work should begin between Coleg Cambria and Glyndwr towards the reports objectives.
Details of the make up of the report panel is on page 126, or 129 of the PDF itself for those interested.
You can read the full report in this PDF on the Wales.gov.uk site. For those who like data the report also contains some interesting regional information and stats!