News – Silk Commission – Part II report published
On 3 March 2014, the Silk Commission published its report (and executive summary) on Part II of its remit on the wider powers of the National Assembly for Wales. The year-long review found that: the current devolution settlement was too complex for people to understand or to find out where power lies; there was a need for governments and institutions to work together better; and there was broad support for devolving more powers. The headlines for higher education (HE) are proposals for:
- A formal intergovernmental forum to ensure mutual understanding of HE policy issues, in light of policy changes in England impinging on Wales – among other roles, the forum would provide early information on proposed changes, and promote international excellence and competitiveness;
- The major funders of Science and Welsh Government to establish effective means of reciprocal communication – recognising that Wales’ requirements are better understood by the UK Government, particularly in relation to the economic impact of science research;
- The Research Councils to continue to allocate funding on the basis of competitive excellence, and to improve Wales’ representation on bodies determining research funding.
News – Financial health of higher education institutions in England
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published a review of university and college finances on 5 March 2014, reporting an overall operating surplus for 2012/13 of 3.9% of income (down from 4.2% in 2011/12) as well as strong cash balances and healthy reserves. As HEFCE points out, however, the analysis does not reflect the further significant funding reductions announced by the Government in February 2014, and future reserve levels and pension deficits are likely to be significantly affected by a new requirement on institutions to include pension scheme liabilities on their balance sheets. It also points to future risks in terms of international students, the removal of the cap on student numbers, and on institutions plans for significantly increased capital infrastructure expenditure. For more information please visit the HEFCE website.
Appointments – Learned Society of Wales – President
Sir Emyr Jones Parry has been elected President of Wales’ Learned Society. He will begin his three-year term of office as President in May 2014. The appointment follows a ballot of LSW Fellows which resulted in an overwhelming response in favour of his election. Sir Emyr will succeed Sir John Cadogen. Further details are available on the LSW website.