Reforms to Welsh universities on the cards

REFORMS to Welsh colleges and universities have been proposed by the Welsh Government in a new paper unveiled this week.

The document, which is a formal proposal for a new Act of the Assembly to be called the Further and Higher Education (Wales) Bill, proposes reinstating the independence of colleges as separate from the Welsh Government. This move is prompted by a recent technical change that would have seen colleges included in the Government’s accounts.

Colleges will enjoy greater autonomy and will have greater independence under the proposals, and the Government will lose the power to abolish colleges. However, new powers of intervention will be introduced, for use where necessary.

In terms of universities, the paper reiterates the desire of the government to see fewer universities in Wales and a desire to see a stronger student voice in the running of institutions. Proposals include giving HEFCW, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, explicit powers to regulate and oversee universities. They currently exercise control through the grant awarding process, but as they will lose much of this function with the increase in tuition fees, new powers are to be introduced.

HEFCW will also be given quality control powers – such as monitoring assessment and teaching – that they would otherwise lose with the tuition fee rises. They are also to be given a new power to regulate the way in which universities – both public and private – use the money they receive from fees, including a much greater emphasis on engaging students in decision-making process and strengthening the role of students’ unions. The new proposals also include a power for the Welsh government to directly fund partnerships between universities, colleges and other bodies where it is necessary to do so.