HIGHER Education Wales, the representative body for the university sector in Wales, has released a key statement on the future of the higher education (HE) sector in Wales. At their meeting on 30 June 2011 the Committee of Higher Education Wales (HEW), comprising Heads of Institutions in Wales, agreed the following statement in relation to the future of the university sector in Wales:
“The positive impact of universities in Wales – contributing £2.2bn a year to the Welsh economy – is strong and growing, but the challenges facing higher education are of an unprecedented nature. We have to move fast in order to meet these challenges and deliver transformational change for Wales. Universities across the UK will inevitably be impacted deeply by the Westminster Government’s higher education White Paper, which sets out radical plans for the future development of HE. The ambitious Welsh Government agenda set out in For our Future guides our task in leading change – but it does so in an environment that is increasingly competitive at both a UK and international level.”
The statement continues:
“In this context a strategic approach from the higher education sector in Wales is essential. HEW itself will play a vital role in facilitating change in an environment that is moving at an ever increasing rate. This work will address key national priorities for Wales in relation to economic renewal and social justice. As a start to this new approach we will be leading important new strands of work in relation to European research funding, joint institutional planning and in maximising the advantage of EU structural funds for Wales”.
The Higher Education Wales statement concludes:
“Though universities are legally autonomous and mergers are a matter for university governing bodies to decide, in this changed environment we are working with the approach of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Welsh Government on the size and shape of the university sector. We are clear that this new strategic approach will require further reconfiguration of the university sector and will be of all round benefit. The gains for Wales of fewer but stronger and more successful universities working collaboratively with the Welsh Government will be substantial. Higher Education Wales will therefore be working to fulfil the goals, including on reconfiguration, outlined in the Funding Council’s Corporate Strategy for 2010-11–2012-13. In this process we are pleased to have the support of colleagues in Universities UK, the wider representative body for Britain’s universities.”