Who needs the University of Wales?

I couldn’t resist a quick  and possibly inflammatory, comment about the University of Wales affair.

I’m not sure how much this story has spread outside Wales, but it’s relatively easy to summarise quickly.  The University of Wales has had a complicated history which I won’t go into details about, but in essence it used to be the only University in Wales; my current employer, Cardiff University, for example, was for a long time a College of the University of Wales.  In 1992 the special status of the University of Wales changed when the former Polytechnic of Wales became the University of Glamorgan. In subsequent years a number of institutions within the University of Wales, including the College of  Cardiff in 2004, sought and were granted the ability to award their own degrees rather than degrees accredited by the University of Wales and so effectively became independent. As  a consequence, the importance of the University of Wales in the landscape of Welsh Higher Education rapidly dwindled to the point where it was a “rump” of an institution accrediting degrees for just a few relatively small institutes.

Having spent some time in my career working in London, it seems to me that there’s at least superficially a  striking parallel between the situation in Wales and that surrounding the former colleges of the University of London, most of which now award their own degrees rather than University of London degrees. The University of London nevertheless still exists, though I’ve never really understood why.

It tends to be the case that administrative structures refuse to die a natural death but instead try to find new things to administer. In order to justify itself, the University of Wales diversified into accrediting degrees from a host of smaller institutions both at home and abroad.  To cut several long stories very short, much of its business in recent years has been dodgy to say the least.  The University of Wales’ involvement in visa scams and  the selling of bogus degrees are just two of the revelations that have led to many calling for the organisation to be scrapped altogether, prominent among them being the Welsh Assembly Minister responsible for higher education, Leighton Andrews.

The University of Wales “brand” has now become so tarnished that some of   Welsh Higher Education institutions whose degrees it accredits now seem anxious to sever their ties altogether. The University of Wales, Institute of Cardiff (UWIC) wishes to change its name to Cardiff Metropolitan University and award its own degrees.

I think it’s quite clear that the University of Wales is now damaged beyond repair and should be dissolved, although the mechanism by which this can be achieved is unclear as universities are  independent charitable institutions, not run directly from government.  So egregious has been the conduct of the senior management of this organisation, however, that I’m sure a way can be found to wind it up. I just can’t see how it can possibly survive these scandals.

Unfortunately, dissolution  in itself will not repair the damage already done; some institutions under the University of Wales umbrella will surely find that, through no fault of their own, a great deal of mud will stick.

Leighton Andrews has already called – rightly, in my view – for a reduction in the number of universities in Wales, most of which are small. In my neck of the woods, South-east Wales, for example, a game of musical mergers has been going on for months already between UWIC, Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport but no concrete plans have emerged. In my opinion the region can only sustain one world-class, research intensive university and one teaching led “new” university. Will  the  chaos generated by the public disintegration of the University of Wales make it easier or harder to achieve this?

But I can’t help feel sad about the inevitable demise of the University of Wales, which seems to me to be more of a tragedy than a farce. Its problems can all be traced back to the terrible decision,  taken by the Conservative government in 1992, to allow the polytechnics to call themselves universities. Wales was much better off when it had one University and one Polytechnic, and neither had to prostitute itself to make ends meet.

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59 Responses to “Who needs the University of Wales?”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Maybe it should be demoted to a School of Whales…

    • Steve Jones Says:

      Hey that’s Ringo’s joke! (1:30 in)…

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQBkn7D2y9o&w=420&h=315%5D

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Well spotted! I never forgot that line…

    • Steve Jones Says:

      Excellent! You’ll remember too they discuss “Einstein’s time-space-continuum theory” when they are in the “sea of time”

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=creY6fQ4WYI&w=420&h=315%5D

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I’d forgotten that. for remarkable parallels, see what you think of the mediaeval Jewish philosopher Nahmanides, and Big Bang cosmology (from his commentary on the opening of Genesis, at least according to G. Schroeder):

      “At the briefest instant following creation all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. The matter at this time was very thin, so intangible, that it did not have real substance. It did have, however, a potential to gain substance and form and to become tangible matter. From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin noncorporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from this ethereally thin pseudosubstance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is, and will be formed.”

    • Steve Jones Says:

      I’m more of a follower of the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

  2. Tragedy indeed. Did two postgraduate degrees at what started as UWCC. Still got the scarf.
    I wonder if they’ve still got their copy of my doctoral thesis stored in Aberystwyth from 1998. If their going to light the funeral pyre, I’d like it back please; I only made two fully bound copies, and it’s got great calorific value.

    If not, I’ll have to send in the SLS (Special Library Service , motto: Shhhhh !)

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      I understand that the University of Wales copies of theses are stored in the National Library of Wales, not by the University of Wales. I believe they have been deposited in the Library permanently.

  3. Regarding the 1992 decision I wholly agree. Polytechnics were regarded as centres of vocational excellence (with some justification). The successor institutes are regarded as second rate universities (with some justification). Calling something a university doesn’t make it one any more than giving someone a grade A at A-level makes them knowledgeable within a certain subject area.

    Governance in UK universities in general is extremely weak. I suspect that this is because there have been few precedents of mistakes which made it into the media. With disasters at Leeds Met, London Met and now the University of Wales receiving attention one can hope that governance may improve. Then again this may be too much to hope for.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I agree, but it’s unfair to blame the upgraded polys for catering to the lower end of the market. The problem is a policy to get half of the population into higher education, from which follows dumbing-down as night follows day.

    • telescoper Says:

      There have also been serious problems at Thames Valley, and I’d certainly ask questions about governance in the University of Glamorgan given the Mark brake affair.

      I don’t know if I agree that the UK generally is weak in this respect, but I do think there’s been an influx of unscrupulous types into the University sector in recent years, many of them at extremely senior levels.

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        Yes, the United Kingdom is weak in regulating academic standards. The quality assurance process over the past year has been concerned largely with process – checking procedures. There has been far less concern for regulating standards, for example the rigour of syllabuses and examinations, other than through inspections by external examiners.

        I just wish Welsh universities had moved to a position where the University of Wales had taken on that role and had maintained standards.

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        Typing error: I meant the past 10 years!

    • telescoper Says:

      ps. People often accuse me of being an intellectual snob about the post-1992 universities, but I maintain that scrapping the polytechnics was a disaster. Many of them provided a truly excellent education,simply with a different focus to the universities. Losing that focus has led to untold problems for the UK HE sector.

      • That someone is an intellectual snob is the usual “counter-argument” given whenever anyone laments the vandalism of the higher education system in 1992.

        My brother turned down a place at a uni and went to a poly because the course suited him. He’s now earning a high wage doing a highly skilled job for which he was trained at the poly. He knew what he was doing and the poly knew its business.

        I’ve never had anything other than the highest regard for polys. Its a pity I can’t say the same thing for the post-1992 universities into which they morphed.

      • Dave Carter Says:

        How did this discussion get around to denigrating post-1992 universities? The University of Wales is not that, as your brief history makes clear, whereas Cardiff University is a post-1996 university. What happened in 1992 was that there was for the first time another University in Wales. Without explaining further, you seem to imply that this was the source of the problems. Why so? The University of Liverpool had no such problems when LJMU became a University in 1992, indeed the two universities work well together in a number of areas including astrophysics.

        Weak governance needs to be improved, whether it occurs in post-1992, Russell group or Oxbridge.

      • telescoper Says:

        There’s no doubt that the creation of the University of Glamorgan precipitated the unravelling of the University of Wales and its consequent fragmentation into a plethora of small institutions. I don’t see the parallel with Liverpool at all, or anywhere else in the English Midlands for that matter, though there is with the University of London.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Agreed Peter. My father retired as a polytechnic lecturer and he was very clear that it was not a university. (Actually he retired as head of a department, but he only took the job so that after one year he could retire on a pension calculated as if he had been deptl head for a long time – a deal on offer as part of the Thatcher government’s slimming down of higher education.)

  4. Bryn Jones Says:

    What has happened to the University of Wales over the past decade has been a tragedy.

    The University of Wales was formed in 1893 to provide degree awarding powers and effective full university status to the then three non-religious university colleges. The rigour of the examination standards created a good reputation for Welsh degrees.

    The University of Wales suffered a severe blow in 2004 when the University of Wales College of Cardiff and the Welsh National School of Medicine merged and effectively broke away to form Cardiff University as a new university. How that was allowed by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and by the Welsh Assembly Government to happen without a long public consultation into the future direction of universities in Wales is beyond understanding. Ironically, political intervention by the University of Wales saved University College Cardiff from bankruptcy in 1988, paving the way for the creation of the University of Wales College of Cardiff in the first place. It was inevitable that the formation of Cardiff University in 2004 would have a fundamental effect on the character and sustainability of a number of university institutions in Wales.

    What we have now is a plethora of small universities in Wales, most now independent institutions, which duplicate functions and which are too small to sustain teaching and research in all except for a few of the most popular subjects. There is no adequate cooperation or collaboration.

    The Welsh education minister, very rightly, sees that the current number of universities is unsustainable. He proposes mergers. However, in many cases these mergers would create universities spread over two or three sites separated by many tens of miles. Multicampus universities can work well within a locality, but it is impossible to see this working with campuses separated by 40 miles or more.

    What we have now is academics within one discipline in Wales isolated from others in different fields for whom informal collaboration might be useful. How can academic engineers at Glyndwr University in Wrexham discuss their work with physicists? How can environmental scientists in Bangor discuss numerical and statistical analysis techniques with mathematicians? All universities are competing to sell their undergraduate courses to applicants, duplicating and triplicating courses across the land.

    There was a different model that might have allowed universities in Wales to collaborate to maximise efficiency and to pool resources. That would have seen the University of Wales reformed to become a service provider to Welsh universities and a regulator of standards. It could have provided a framework to support academics across Wales, encouraging collaborations across institutions and disciplines. The University of Wales degree could have continued to represent quality.

    Instead we had fragmentation, with individual institutions becoming independent and replicating administrative structure and salaries. The University of Wales, short of funding and a role, tried to sell its accreditation around Britain and around the world, beyond what it was capable of doing with decent quality control.

    What a mess. What an almighty mess.

    The problem with this is that Welsh universities will be too fragmented and inefficient to compete internationally. Wales may became a land known for second- or third-rate universities. Then the supply of undergraduate applications from outside Wales – on which Welsh universities depend financially – may begin to dry up.

    What a mess.

    • I may add something later, but Bryn has pretty much said it all. What a mess, a mess which should have been avoided. My PhD and PGCE are from the University of Wales, and I was proud to have a degree from a University which was set up to provide higher education to non-religious groups and the “working man” (Aberystwyth was founded by miners saving their pennies over decades).

      Now the U of Wales is a joke. The former Trinity College Carmarthern, Lampeter and Swansea Met, plus maybe Newport, and an organisastion which has lost all credibility in its degree awarding role, given the scandal of selling degrees for cash that the BBC investigation has exposed.

      The Welsh Assembly Government should have stopped this happening back in 2004 when the first cracks started to appear. What we now have is an embarrassment to Wales.

  5. [...] “I couldn’t resist a quick  and possibly inflammatory comment about the University of Wales affair. I’m not sure how much this story has spread outside Wales, but it’s relatively easy to summarise quickly …” (more) [...]

  6. telescoper Says:

    In the light of the bad publicity surrounding the University of Wales, Cardiff University has issued the following press statement:

    http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/mediacentre/mediastatements.html

    Cardiff University is not a member of the University of Wales.

    Cardiff University exercises full independent authority for the quality and standards of the degrees it awards to its students.

    Cardiff University left the University of Wales in 2005 after having played an important part in its early history but a diminishing role in later years. The University of Wales was founded in 1893 as a federal institution with three foundation colleges – University College Wales (now Aberystwyth University), University College North Wales (now Bangor University) and University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (now Cardiff University).

    As Cardiff University grew in scale, reputation, and independence, it took responsibility for developing its own mechanisms for measuring and maintaining the standards and quality of its learning programmes. Cardiff sought and obtained the ability to award its own taught and research degrees in 1996.

    Since 2005, the great majority of students graduating from Cardiff University have been awarded Cardiff University degrees, with the exception of a very small number of students in health related programmes.

    Cardiff University alumni, previously awarded degrees by the University of Wales, can be confident in the quality and standards of their qualifications. All University of Wales degrees awarded to Cardiff University students were made long before the current difficulties and we can assure all of our graduates of the academic integrity of their awards.

    Every University of Wales degree is managed and overseen by the institution where the student actually studies, so graduates holding a University of Wales degree from Cardiff University can be assured that Cardiff University had ultimate oversight of their award.

    Cardiff University is deeply disturbed by the latest revelations about certain institutions whose qualifications are validated by the University of Wales. Such practices have no place in a respected higher education institution.

    Cardiff University continues to work hard to achieve our ‘world top 100’ aim. We are investing to improve our research, our infrastructure, our ability to attract world-class staff and postgraduate students as well as to enhance the student experience and employability of our graduates.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      Whether Cardiff University likes it or not, my Ph.D. from the University of Wales College of Cardiff is a University of Wales degree. By forming Cardiff University several years ago, dumping the University of Wales and letting the University of Wales fester, the reputation of my Cardiff Ph.D. has been devalued by the actions of both Cardiff University and the University of Wales.

      I’m not pleased about that. I actually feel badly let down.

    • telescoper Says:

      At least this might stop Mark Brake pretending to have a University of Wales PhD….

  7. Dave Carter Says:

    Yes Peter, but I would blame this not on Glamorgan or its formation, but upon the reaction within the University of Wales. Which may have been because of some deeper seated problems, but an institution should not unravel because for the first time there is competition.

    • telescoper Says:

      The decision to allow sundry small colleges to follow Glamorgan’s example and call themselves “universities” was what caused the disintegration, not the mythical “competition”…

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        I would argue that a bigger blow to the University of Wales was the formation of Cardiff University in 2004 outside the University of Wales. That happened with very little discussion in civil society and very little thought about the consequences. The fragmentation of the University of Wales and its incompetent handling of the accreditation of college courses outside Wales were results of this.

        I’m sure the thinking behind the formation of Cardiff University was that it would allow the new university to compete aggressively against other university institutions within Wales and that it would establish a pre-eminence in research mass and quality. Although Cardiff University did retain its lead in research quality over other Welsh institutions in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, the other institutions closed the gap. There are now four good research universities in Wales, and a number of other institutions, some of which carry out good research in individual areas. Then there are serious concerns over standards over the whole Welsh higher education, the result of mud from the latest University of Wales mess landing everywhere.

        These issues had to be addressed a decade ago. They were not. The current mess that besmirches all universities in Wales is the result.

      • Dave Carter Says:

        Ok, but I think you mean colleges which were at the time part of the University of Wales, in which case this is entirely a University of Wales governance issue, and not a University of Glamorgan governance of issue, nor an issue with post-1992 universities in general.

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        The colleges I mentioned are current colleges of higher and further education in Britain and overseas – not universities – that have previously had their courses accredited by the University of Wales. In recent years the University of Wales has tried to find a role and revenue stream by accrediting courses of such colleges. It was the recent unveiling by the B.B.C. of scams involving some of these colleges that has provoked the latest University of Wales controversies (the B.B.C. alleged that one private college accredited by the University of Wales showed its students examination papers in advance, wholly without the knowledge of the University of Wales and absolutely contrary to its standards).

        There is no suggestion here of poor standards in those university institutions that are part of the University of Wales, nor in those universities that have left the University of Wales within the past decade. Neither is there any suggestion of poor standards within post-1992 universities across Britain in general.

        The issue is one of governance within the University of Wales and the rigour of the checks it used to make in accrediting courses in external colleges. The University of Wales announced last week that it will now end the practice of accrediting courses in external colleges.

        As for University of Glamorgan, some people have commented on standards at that institution, but it is a different issue and one of quality assurance across the whole British university system. It is not in my view an issue of pre-1992 and post-1992 universities at all.

      • Dave Carter Says:

        Ok thanks Bryn, thats clear. But it seems that Willetts intends to hand the market in accrediting shoddy courses over to the private sector in any case.

      • telescoper Says:

        Bryn

        I don’t disagree with what you say, but I should clarify one aspect. Cardiff did in fact do well in the 2001 RAE, but in fact did not benefit from HEFCWs allocation of QR funding to anything like the extent that happened in England. Had the HEFCE formula been applied, Cardiff would have had about 75% of all the research funding in Wales. As it was, it was capped at about 50%. The catch-up by RAE 2008 was largely due to this.

        People will argue about whether this was the right decision or not. For myself, I think Wales can only sustain one world-leading research-led University and that University can only be Cardiff. While the jam is spread so thinly we won’t have any.

        Peter

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        Peter,

        The university system that grew up in Wales was one with regional university institutions of broadly equal standing (created in the years following the Aberdare Report of 1881). There was no one pre-eminent institution.

        Going from that old system to one where there is one world-leading, research-led university in Wales may or may not be successful. The process may fail. Who knows what mess will be left if it fails, or what mess will be left even if it does succeed.

        I just wish that this had all been discussed publicly ten years ago, that broad public agreement had been reached behind the policy, and that the consequences for the entire university sector had been decided. Instead the transition to a single world-class university has not yet occurred. It has however produced a fallout that has damaged the reputations of all universities in Wales.

        Bryn.

      • telescoper Says:

        Agreed.

        But we have to start from where we are now, not where we were in 1881 or even 2004.

  8. Dave Carter Says:

    Sorry thats in the wrong place, it is a response to your comment at 12:40 above, indented twice.

  9. Huw Clayton Says:

    Very interesting post and discussions. To add a couple of facts that have only been obliquely referred to:

    1) The University of Wales’ problems began in 1996 with the founding of the federal structure, and were deepened in 1999 with the founding of the Welsh Assembly. After 1996, because it had no students – only validated courses at other institutions – it received no public money, and the Welsh Assembly made no effort to change this (which is why it is ironic that Andrews spends all his time ranting about the ‘brand’ – why didn’t he and his predecessors care 10 years ago and do something about it)? It couldn’t go under – because that would have left only Glamorgan and Lampeter able to award degrees in Wales at that time – and it couldn’t live on air. So it started validating all courses for various institutions, and having found what it thought was a good wheeze, took it abroad and started making money that way as well – with this disastrous and perhaps inevitable result.

    2) I think Wales can probably sustain a decent-sized university network – but at the moment all that appears to be happening is forced mergers with no regard for geography, logic or common sense. Aber, Bangor and Wrexham might make three colleges of one university – but one university? I lived in Aberystwyth for seven years. Not once did I have time to travel as far north as Bangor, and the nearest I ever got to Wrexham was Chester Station. That was dreamed up by an idiot (well, Leighton Andrews). What worries me is not only is this causing a major distraction from the real problems of under-resourcing and lack of direction, but it seems to be costing an absolute fortune in various ways (e.g. consultant’s fees, lawyer’s fees, abortive re-branding exercises) that are actually making the basic problem it was designed to solve a thousand times worse! Chaos does not do it justice – I don’t know whether this was Andrew’s plan, to cause a turf war to weaken the institutions so he could browbeat them into accepting his pre-determined plans over all common sense objections and regardless of any merits in the current system (see here but there are times when it looks like it.

    3) I agree that Cardiff is almost certainly going to emerge as the dominant research-led university in Wales whatever happens, due to things like its sheer mass and resources, as well as its closeness to the major population centres and transport links. However, it is also my view that it would be difficult to make it the sole one without closing down (and I mean closing, not merging) at least one other – Swansea most probably, but Aberystwyth and Bangor both have difficulties of their own and would be vulnerable if Cardiff swiped 75% of the available funding. I don’t know whether you would consider that an acceptable price to pay (I’m not accusing you of callousness or a lack of realism or anything else, just asking for a simple answer based on cold logic). However, it would undoubtedly be controversial and probably politically unviable. Have you any thoughts on whether a compromise might be reached?

    4) UWIC are being awkward, I think because of sheer egotism (they are a university in the capital city) – but as you yourself have highlighted very often, Glamorgan seem to have problems of their own with regard to management, and Newport’s own recommendations contained a not-very-veiled hint that Glamorgan’s management would have to be removed in a merger.

    Those are simply my thoughts on the situation. It’s things like this that made me turn my back on academia in the first place.

  10. Huw Clayton Says:

    ‘So it started validating all courses for various institutions,’

    That should have concluded with ‘for a fee’. Sorry, lack of proof-reading!

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      Yes, I agree that the reforms of 1996 laid the seed for the collapse of the University of Wales. I wonder how they got through. Were they approved by the then Secretary of State for Wales, and if so, who did it? William Hague? If the decisions were taken in 1995 it could have been John Redwood. Did either know anything about the Welsh university system?

      I actually welcome an input from the Welsh education minister into reforming the Welsh university system – but not in the way it is being done. However, my central concern is that the policy he favours – regional universities with campuses separated by tens of miles – will not work.

      The idea of a single Aberystwyth-Bangor-Wrexham university seems surreal to me. It couldn’t possibly work. It’s perplexing that it has been talked about with some seriousness.

      I think (and hope) that it would be politically unacceptable for any of the Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea universities to close, and it is unlikely that any will. What is likely is that the four biggest players will fight, justifiably given the existing structures, for limited research funds (though the R.E.F. process), and as a consequence those funds will be too thinly spread to allow a single, dominant, international research university to become established in Wales. The brightest students from Wales will then look to courses in London, Bristol, Birmingham and similar places.

      • Huw Clayton Says:

        I assume it was taken by the then Secretary of State for Education, in concert with the Secretary of State for Wales and the university of Wales itself. So that would be Gillian Sheppard, John Redwood transferred to William Hague and of course, whoever was at the university of Wales. It was a bad idea, anyway.

        Fully agree with the last paragraph – it’s what’s happening now anyway, of course.

        By the way, why is Leighton Andrews so aggressive on the subject? Did he get sacked from a university, or fail a course? Or – frightening thought – does he actually believe in what he’s doing? Anyway, it’s a real disaster whatever he’s playing at.

  11. Anton Garrett Says:

    Could Wales get itself out of its Higher Education jam by taking the lead within the UK in reverting some of its HE institutions to polytechnics?

  12. Dave Carter Says:

    Maybe Wales should set up a single world-leading research University somewhere neutral, say Llandrindod Wells, something like the original model of ANU, where people from the teaching universities in the cities could spend research sabbaticals there. ANU didn’t really work out that way of course, but I am sure that this was Chifley’s idea at the time.

    • telescoper Says:

      Why not in the Bahamas?

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Costs a lot of money Dave, and in a time of recession. Also, you can’t just “start a world-class university”. To do that you need a lot of world-class people. The Saudi Arabian experience shows that top salaries don’t necessarily attract top academics; such people want a particular milieu as well as decent pay, and a milieu like that can only be grown organically.

      I think there’s only room for one place like the Isaac Newton Institute in Britain, but Wales could try it in other subjects than maths and physics.

      Try using financial leverage to revert poor universities to good polys, with a parallel advertising campaign throughout Wales and England (Scots wouldn’t come as they get their fees paid) saying as much: “Don’t go to a poor university – come to a good poly, have just as good a time and get a better job afterwards”. I can almost see the pics which could accompany that.

  13. telescoper Says:

    One of the things that tends to be forgotten here is that universities are independent charitable institutions, and are not run directly by government. The WAG can’t therefore just change the nature of an institution. It does however control some of the money these institutions gets – most of the money in some cases.

    I think Bryn’s comment about merging universities being unworkable is only correct if you want them to do research. With digital technology, teaching can more easily be spread over different campuses.

    What I think should happen (although there’s no way it will) is that research funding should be concentrated, ideally in one world-class university but at any rate in at most three institutions. The rest should be teaching only; in effect polytechnics. My ideal scenario is the mirror-image of the previous situation.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      Yes, universities are independent institutions, and that is much of the problem.

      The University of Wales itself chose to sell course accreditation to all and sundry without the highly rigorous checks necessary, leading to the recent embarrassment. The residual University of Wales is now pursuing a merger plan with Trinity Saint David and Swansea Metropolitan University to form a regional teaching university in southwest Wales, presumably to be called the University of Wales (with the endowments of the old University of Wales, its name and none of the institutions that made up the old University of Wales).

      Broader society, past graduates and government can do relatively little to influence these developments. That is the fundamental problem. The University of Wales today seems to be the property of its current management and council, but it still carries the name of a national institution and the heritage that comes with that.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      It might be noted that the Thatcher government of the mid-1980s intended for a short period to introduce a highly selective funding policy for British universities, with research funds concentrated into a very small number of institutions that would be among the world’s leading universities. The institution in Wales chosen for that elevated role was the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, not an institution in Cardiff.

      The policy was soon dropped following strong criticism that a great deal of excellent research in universities outside of the elite would have gone to the wall.

    • Huw Clayton Says:

      ‘The WAG can’t therefore just change the nature of an institution. ‘

      As I understand it, it does indeed have just that power under the Higher Education Act 1986, by which ministers can force institutions to merge if necessary. This was put in place precisely to give the government the right to rescue failing institutions by force if necessary, in light of Cardiff’s experience. I think it was last considered for Lampeter, indeed, although the university council were probably so glad somebody was so willing to get them out of the awful mess they were in they were happy to merge without force being used.

      However, I seriously doubt that even Leighton Andrews would try to use these powers unless he feels he has absolutely no other choice – not least because they are not technically devolved to the Assembly but reserved to the Privy Council, so it would probably require the assent of at least Cheryl Gillan and probably Vince Cable and David Willetts to enforce. It might happen with UWIC (sorry, Cardiff Met) Newport and Glamorgan, where the main question is one of who runs the combined institution and parochialism, but it won’t happen in the case of Bangor, Glyndwr and Aberystwyth, who are all adamantly opposed to merging because of sheer logistics. I would have said personally that “surreal” was a very weak word to describe such an idea – I’d go for “completely insane” – but I’m not a minister, so what do I know?

      Finally, Peter, a good point about teaching, but I don’t think it’s teaching that’s the problem. In order for a combined university to provide economies of scale, back-office functions – e.g. estates, learning support, Finance and the Academic Office – would need to be merged as well. But you can’t have these things three hours’ travel from the places they are monitoring (that’s how disasters like the University of Wales happen in the first place). A broken window in Bangor cannot be changed over a computer connection from Wrexham. So those functions would still need duplicating at the same cost, and the one possible benefit of a merger would be lost.

      • telescoper Says:

        I’m not sure agree. Most of the admin stuff we do in Cardiff is doen electronically, so I don’t see why most of that couldn’t be done across campuses. There would still have to be people on each site to oversee things, but a lot could be merged in my view.

      • Bryn Jones Says:

        The argument that administration and management can be done effectively many tens of miles distant looks a little like an argument for a single administrative structure for all universities …

    • Wales does not have a World-class university, or at least not if you look at the 2011/12 Times Higher table of World University Rankings!

      http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2011-2012/top-400.html.

      Cardiff comes in at 207,

      http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2011-2012/201-225.html

      and I assume it is the highest rated in Wales (I have not bothered to search for the other pre-92 universities). I don’t consider 207th in the World to be “World-class”,;that’s a bit like thinking Yeovil town are a World-class football team.

      • Cardiff at 207, Bangor at 251 and Aber at 276. Evans did u know that there are 9000+ University’s in the world, So u “must” consider all this 3 to be world class when it comes to the total no of university’s present in this world.

      • Rachel,

        I hope your spelling and grammar weren’t learnt at one of the universities in Wales. If they were, I rest my case.

        In the 9000+ you mention, how many of them should really merit the title of “university”? There are probably thousands of football clubs in the Disunited Kingdom, but no one would suggest Dagenham & Redbridge FC has a World class team.

      • Oh i am sorry about my grammar, cos i am not English.. and no i was not educated in those university’s.So whats ur point.. how can u compare university’s with some FC’s .then if ur so keen on my grammar and spellings (well nothing came up in my spell check) pls correct me, dont just say. And ur a lecturer of astrophysics in Cardiff , so why are u letting ur institution down.

      • Rhodri Evans Says:

        I’m not English either!

        My point is that being 200+ from the top does not make you World class. There is nothing wrong in working at a place and being realistic that it is not World class. Fooling oneself is far worse. I was lucky enough to work at the University of Chicago, which is World class. Cardiff is not, but that’s not to say people working there wouldn’t aspire to it being so one day.

      • Why are u pressing the matter so hard. I may not be in any position to judge ur words and i don’t have a PhD like u. My university never made in the top 500 list . But i will never say anything wrong about it and i respect my Alma mater. Be proud of what u have.

      • Rhodri Evans Says:

        I am not saying anything “wrong” about Cardiff. How is saying being ranked 207 is not World class wrong? It is being realistic. As I’ve been lucky enough to work at a World class university (Chicago – ranked 8th in the World), and to study at a World class university (Imperial College – ranked 7th), I know the gulf between these two places and Cardiff. The only way to move UP rankings it to think that being 207th is not good enough! Not to think it is World class, when it’s not. Improvement is only possible if you think you need to improve….

  14. Kumarasamy Sathyanathan Says:

    In Sri Lanka also one private institution called ICBT is conducting the UWIC MBA (previously) and now they are advertising the Cardiff Metropolitan University MBA. That ICBT is not a reputed one and they were onetime accused of not remitting the course fees collected from the students of Manipal University India and their licence was also cancelled. After that they have started this UWIC MBA and what they do is they give the answers of the exam papers to the students in advance by charging money. The assignments and the researches also they prepare for the students by charging money. In Sri Lanka this MBA is not recognized at all and it is called “MBA for money”. So the parent institute should monitor the quality levels of the study courses and they should not have any dealerships with those low qualiy private institutes thus they should inquire about those private institutes from the government sources or through the embassies.

    Sathyanathan

  15. Lindsay Hutchinson Says:

    A Doctorate in Islamic Finance & Diploma in Advanced Selling at Bangor, to say nothing of the Giant Student Funerama under construction on Dieniol Road – Chwarelwr y Swllt

  16. Hi, actually I am planning to do this ICBT cardiff MBA, I would like to get more details on this…..

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