A UNIVERSITY governor has warned of the “disruption, frustration, cost and distraction” that plans to merge three higher education institutions will cause.
Reverend Canon Robin Morrison, an independent governor at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said “unnecessary” changes would put at risk what is already being achieved in the sector.
His comments follow a decision by Education Minister Leighton Andrews to accept “the overall thrust” of a report put forward by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).
In its blueprint for the future structure of Wales’ universities, HEFCW proposed merging Cardiff Met with Glamorgan and Newport to form the UK’s largest higher education institution.
The minister said he would consult with the universities affected but allayed fears that formal collaboration would trigger a reduction in students and campuses.
Cardiff Met is the only institution to publicly oppose the plan, believing closer collaboration with partners in the capital is its best available option.
Canon Morrison questioned the “democratic accountability” of the minister’s decision and said his proposals had already caused “severe uncertainty and distraction”.
He added: “He believes that larger is stronger. This goes right against the grain of the latest thinking for universities of the future and perhaps reflects old-fashioned command and control ideology.”
Canon Morrison said Cardiff Met has a high record of student satisfaction, is financially secure and has pioneered its own specialised niche.
“The minister rightly wants more collaboration and better performance,” he said.
“Creating a macro university structure of 43,000 students across nine campuses in Newport, Cardiff and the Valleys is a clumsy and unnecessary way to achieve that. Worse, it will risk what is already being achieved as universities become more fleet of foot and reactive to social and economic needs in Wales and elsewhere.”
Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns has suggested a new “University of the Valleys” – involving only Newport and Glamorgan – as an alternative to the plans approved by Mr Andrews.
The Tory AM believes Cardiff Met should be left to stand alone and is deserving of more government support. Universities have been under pressure to collaborate since HEFCW outlined plans to halve the nation’s institutions last December.
Glamorgan and Uwic, located just 10 miles apart, have long been considered ideal candidates for merger but a deal has never materialised.
If Mr Andrews is not satisfied with collaborative arrangements, he has powers to force the dissolution of post-92 institutions under the Education Reform Act 1988.
A spokesman for theWelsh Government said HEFCW had provided a “persuasive case” for the merger of Glamorgan, Newport and Cardiff Met.
“The minister reported this to the cabinet of the Welsh Government which approved his report,” he said.
“The minister will consult the institutions affected before any final decision or dissolution order is made.”
A spokesman for Cardiff Met said Canon Morrison is an independent governor who is entitled to offer his views – but the university itself had no comment to make about the consultation process at this stage.