Warning not to strip University of Wales assets

University of Wales The 120-year-old University of Wales is merging with Trinity St David and Swansea Metropolitan University

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A union has warned against stripping assets from the University of Wales (UoW) while the debate continues over the institution's future.

There have been calls for it to be broken up and distributed among other Welsh universities.

The troubled UoW, which has been tarnished by a string of scandals, is merging with Trinity St David and Swansea Metropolitan University.

University and College Union (UCU) said it needed support during the process.

In a letter to Education Minister Leighton Andrews, it warned that any moves to strip the university of its assets would distract from the merger, which will form a new university for south west Wales.

The UoW will effectively be abolished in the merger and will be rebranded, with future students receiving University of Wales: Trinity St David college degrees instead of University of Wales ones.

University's legacy

In an open letter, which was published in the online magazine Click on Wales, Geraint Talfan Davies, chair of the Institute of Welsh Affairs and former controller of BBC Wales, argued for the UoW to be broken up and its assets distributed to other Welsh universities.

Addressed to the UoW vice-chancellor Prof Medwin Hughes, the letter made a number of suggestions, including:

  • Transferring the Centre for Advanced Celtic Studies to Aberystwyth University - where it is already physically located
  • Negotiating the future ownership of the University of Wales Extra Mural Centre at Gregynog, Powys. It could be owned and run by the new south West Wales university, which is to be created, or by a new company in which all universities would participate
  • Create a University of Wales Memorial Trust that would take over and administer the extensive reserves that are the legacy of the university's past - the annual report for 2008-09 put these at £27.3million - to act as an endowment to support Welsh national purposes.

However, Lleu Williams of UCU Wales said: "All our energies must be focused on delivering a new institution for south west Wales.

"We must not be side tracked by arguments about who should have what.

Gregynog Hal Gregynog Hall, near Newtown, Powys, is a University of Wales conference centre

"These are difficult times for everyone involved at the University of Wales, but allowing it to be asset stripped risks jeopardising the best solution to its current problems."

He added: "UCU Wales believes the merger is the solution to the current problems.

"The new vice-chancellor has made it quite clear that what brought about the institution's downfall has been stamped out and that any new provision will be subject to thorough and stringent quality assurance practices."

Bogus degrees

The future of the University of Wales had come into question following Welsh government proposals to rationalise the structure of higher education in Wales.

It was compounded by scandals involving courses validated by the University of Wales at outside bodies in the UK and overseas.

An investigation by BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme in October found overseas students were being made offers to cheat their way to UoW-validated degrees and UK graduate work visas.

And last year BBC Wales revealed Fazley Yaakob, a pop star with two bogus degrees, was running a college offering UoW courses in Malaysia.

It led to a damning report from the higher education watchdog, the QAA, which found serious shortcomings in the way the university collaborates with colleges around the world.

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