University mergers: Welsh government claim of 'misleading' comments

The outgoing head of the body that funds higher education in Wales, believes a business case is not always available at this point in the merger process

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The Welsh government has accused the chair of governors at Cardiff Metropolitan University of making "misleading" statements over a proposed university merger.

Barbara Wilding claims the university is being asked to merge with Newport and Glamorgan without a proper business case.

But the Welsh government says she has "misunderstood" the process.

Dr Wilding says the university will fight to stay independent.

The former chief constable of South Wales Police said she wanted to see the costs and risks involved before agreeing to a merger.

It comes as a merger of Swansea Metropolitan University and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David takes place.

Analysis

This is the latest twist in a story that continues to provoke controversy.

The education minister has hit back at the suggestion he's pushing ahead, without the key facts.

Contrary to the views of Barbara Wilding, he says merger certainly isn't a done deal.

But there is a manifesto commitment of the Welsh government to create a higher education sector based on "a smaller number of stronger universities".

So the desire to reconfigure it clear.

The challenge is in proving to everyone in the sector that it's the best way forward, for all.

In July, education minister Leighton Andrews announced a consultation on plans to dissolve Cardiff Metropolitan and Newport universities to allow the merger to take place.

Dr Wilding said the decision was made without having all the facts.

The Welsh government said in response on Friday that Dr Wilding had made "a number of misleading statements in interviews in the media" over the previous 24 hours.

It said Mr Andrews had not yet made a decision and that Dr Wilding would receive all the information requested "in due course".

It also claimed Dr Wilding had overlooked a Wales Audit Office report in 2009, and a later report by the assembly's audit committee, on the need for reconfiguration of the higher education sector in south east Wales.

A spokesman said the government was committed to creating "a smaller number of stronger universities" as proposed in Labour's election manifesto.

Earlier on Friday, Dr Wilding told BBC Radio Wales that governors would consider a merger if it was to benefit education provision and did not reduce choice of courses, the loss of hundreds of jobs and the closure of campuses.

"Any merger normally results in a reduction somewhere but, the point of this is, the gap between how much it is going to cost and how much is available could be very large indeed," she said.

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