Universities Wales Weekly Wrap Up – 20 April 2018

Futures thinking – preparing Wales for automation

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This week Universities Wales, in partnership with CBI, PwC and the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, held a breakfast event looking at the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on Wales. The event brought together public and private sector leaders to hear how long-term thinking could help Wales harness the opportunities of automation and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Speakers included the Chair of Universities Wales, Professor Julie Lydon OBE, the Chief Economist for PricewaterhouseCoopers, John Hawksworth, Matthew Fenech from thinktank Future Advocacy, and the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe.

The event was hosted by The Open University in Wales and chaired by Lee Waters AM. You can follow the morning’s discussions on the Twitter #FuturesThinking

WWU image 2Priorities for apprenticeships in Wales Seminar

Universities Wales attend the Policy Forum for Wales “Priorities for apprenticeships in Wales” seminar, held in Cardiff.  Universities Wales’ Policy Adviser, Kieron Rees, presented on the opportunities that degree apprenticeships offer Wales.

Whitehall Industry Group Event on driving Welsh Economic Growth

WWU image 3Universities Wales director Amanda Wilkinson spoke on Tuesday at the Whitehall Industry Group event on driving Welsh economic growth, highlighting the role today of Universities in making a significant contribution to a prosperous, outward-facing and competitive Wales.

During a panel discussion, Amanda noted how there are many opportunities for universities to play a greater part in driving economic growth, particularly through WG’s Economic Action Plan and UK Gov Industrial Strategy, and how universities are committed to working with Welsh Government and others to navigate the best course for Wales’ future economic growth.

Notably, Amanda highlighted how through long-term investment in skills, connectivity and innovation in Wales, Universities and their graduates can be key to increasing future productivity and economic prosperity for Wales.

University UK’s “Political affairs in higher education forum 2018” WWU image 4

This year’s annual conference provided a unique opportunity for policy and public affairs professionals working in higher education to discuss the most relevant issues currently facing the sector, and to gain insight about how universities and academics can play a meaningful role in shaping policy and influencing legislation.

The key themes discussed included: 

  • Understanding and addressing perceptions of the higher education sector
  • University funding – what happens next?
  • Opportunities from the Industrial Strategy
  • Managing reputational issues
  • Working with and influencing parliamentarians
Speakers included:
  • Kate Perrior, former director of communications at No 10,
  • Baroness Valerie Amos, Director, SOAS
  • Anna Connell-Smith and Ben McNamee, specialists from the House of Commons Education Committee and the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, respectively,

Philip Augar, chair of the England post-18 funding review panel, introduced his four work streams: skills/innovation, economic value, social value and academic excellence, followed by a debate between former universities and science minister David Willetts and the University of Winchester’s John Denham over HE funding.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference

Last weekend Universities Wales, with the Learning and Work Institute Cymru and the OU in Wales, hosted a fringe event at the Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference in Cardiff with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Kirsty Williams AM. The focus of the fringe event was Wales’ future skills needs and the role of flexible, part-time, and adult learning in meeting those needs.

Joint Expert Panel to review university pension scheme valuation

Last week, University and College Union (UCU) members voted to support the establishment of a Joint Expert Panel to examine the USS 2017 valuation. As a result, strike action that had been planned for the summer was immediately suspended.

Universities UK and UCU will work in partnership to appoint a jointly agreed chair for the panel as soon as possible, before developing its terms of reference, order of work, and timescales. The panel will review the methodology and assumptions in the current valuation, and provide an opportunity to consider questions raised by scheme members and employers.

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HEFCW is seeking candidates for the appointment of a Member to Quality Assessment Committee (QAC).

Members must have experience of, or have shown capacity in, the provision of higher education including overseeing quality assurance and enhancement of provision.

  • The Committee meets two or three times a year.
  • QAC Members receive no remuneration. However, HEFCW will reimburse you for all reasonable and properly documented expenses you incur in the performance of your duties, in accordance with our travel and subsistence procedures.
  • The appointment will be for an initial term of up to three years unless terminated earlier by either party, with the possibility of re-appointment for a further term.

Applications should be submitted electronically to Dr Cliona O’Neill, to arrive no later than 30 April 2018.

More information

Political update

  • An evaluation to assess the “effectiveness, efficiency and impact” of the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeships Programme was published earlier this week. Meanwhile, the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, along with other senior civil servants, appeared before the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee to scrutinise the Apprenticeship Levy. Her evidence paper is available here, while all stakeholder responses to the committee’s inquiry can be viewed here.
  • The Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning has written to the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee with further information in connection with Welsh language education (including funding for Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol), following her recent appearance before it. A copy of the review of the ‘Welsh-language Sabbatical Scheme for educational practitioners: participant experiences 2011-2012’ was also included.
  • The Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, appeared before the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee earlier this week as part of its inquiry into the EU Withdrawal Bill.
  • The Welsh Conservatives published its response to a report by Future Advocacy on the potential impact of automation on the Welsh economy.
  • The Director of the Open University in Wales, Louise Cassella, has explained how financial support for new students could make a “major difference to the numbers of people studying part-time”.
  • Statistics on levels of highest qualification held by working age adults; student support applications; and Education Maintenance Allowances have been published.
  • The Assembly’s research service has published its latest Brexit negotiations monitoring report.
  • A Plenary debate has been held on the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee report: ‘How is the Welsh Government preparing for Brexit?’. During his opening remarks, the chair of the committee, David Rees (Aberavon), noted that “We heard directly from students and the university sector about the critically important role that European funding for research, collaboration and innovation has played in the past, and the need to ensure that the university sector plays a role in preparing Wales for potential opportunities after Brexit. Since the report’s publication, the Prime Minister has indicated the UK wishes to continue participation in areas of research and innovation across the EU, and we welcome that, but early preparation in Wales should ensure that we are at the forefront of this issue”.