Universities Wales (UnisWales) communicates and liaises with a range of political institutions.
The National Assembly for Wales is the legislative body with responsibility for higher education. The National Assembly’s business is conducted in plenary sessions and committee meetings. The main committees with interest in higher education are: the Enterprise and Business Committee; the Finance Committee; and the Public Accounts Committee. However, the reach of higher education is wide, and other committees will call on universities to provide evidence from time to time.
The Department for Education and Skills is responsible for higher education in Wales. The current Minister for Education and Skills is Huw Lewis AM. The Department for Economy, Science and Transport is also key for higher education in Wales, with responsibility for developing a strong economy. The current Minister for Economy, Science and Transport is Edwina Hart MBE CStJ AM.
The Welsh Government has committed up to £50million to the Sêr Cymru programme to enhance and build upon the research capability in Wales. The scheme was launched in June 2013, and the programme invites proposals in each of the Grand Challenge research areas, as identified by the Welsh Government’s ‘Science for Wales’ strategy: advanced engineering and materials; life sciences and health; and low carbon, energy and environment.
In the UK
Whilst the responsibility for higher education is devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, the UK Parliament and Government still have significant powers in relation to Wales, and influence over affairs in Wales. Research Council funding remains a ‘reserved’ matter for the UK Government. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills holds functions relating to UK science policy, UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board. The Wales Office is the principal entity within the UK Government with responsibility for Welsh affairs, overseen by the Secretary of State for Wales. The Welsh Affairs Committee is one of the departmental select committees of the House of Commons. It is tasked with examining matters within the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Wales (including relations with the National Assembly for Wales).
UnisWales is a National Council of Universities UK (UUK). UUK’s mission is to be the definitive voice for universities in the UK. UUK provides high quality leadership and support for its members, to promote a successful and diverse higher education sector. UUK’s four strategic aims are:
- Inform and influence the future agenda for the UK university sector;
- Support universities in their primary aims of educating students, carrying out research and innovation, and strengthening civic society;
- Provide excellent services for UUK members and for the UK university sector as a whole;
- Be an effective and efficient organisation.
In Europe, Welsh Higher Education Brussels promotes the interests of Welsh universities. It also supports the sector to engage more fully with European priorities, as well as facilitate stronger relationships between Wales’ universities, European institutions and regional partners from the European Union.
Across the globe
The UK Higher Education International Unit supports the development and sustainability of the UK higher education sector’s influence and competitiveness in the global environment. HEW has a dedicated team member based in the Unit to support Wales’ international activity. The Unit provides market intelligence, builds capacity to capture international opportunities, represents the sector internationally, and shapes international policy.