Wales politics

Labour MPs and AMs oppose Glyndwr University shake-up

Glyndwr University, Wrexham
Image caption A shake-up to the higher education sector could affect Glyndwr University in Wrexham

Education Minister Leighton Andrew is facing opposition from within his own party to proposed changes to Glyndwr University in Wrexham.

A group of Labour MPs and AMs say amalgamating the university would take its leadership away from north east Wales.

The Higher Education Funding Council Wales (Hefcw) proposals show "woeful ignorance" of the area's needs, they said. The Welsh Government said it welcomed all views.

Mr Andrews was handed a blueprint for merging universities in the summer, and recommendations from Hefcw would cut the number from 11 to six.

Glyndwr, it suggested, could team up with further education colleges under the leadership of Aberystwyth and Bangor universities to expand the range of provision in the north east.

Alternatively, it said there was an argument for it to merge with nearby Chester University.

Formerly North East Wales Institute, Glyndwr was granted university status in 2008 and named after medieval rebel prince Owain Glyndwr.

Five Labour MPs and three AMs from north east Wales have lodged a joint submission with Hefcw. They are joined by former MP Baron [Barry] Jones, Glyndwr's first chancellor.

'Damage competitiveness'

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas said: "Glyndwr is the only university in north-east Wales and plays a vital role in the community.

"The proposals put forward by Hefcw display a woeful ignorance of the needs of north-east Wales and the importance of a university led from within our region.

"If implemented, they would damage the competitiveness of one of Wales' strongest economic regions."

Delyn MP David Hanson said the changes could "potentially damage the educational opportunities in our part of Wales".

He told BBC Radio Wales: "One of the worries I fear is that some of the businesses that do business with Glyndwr now on the English side of the border will look to Liverpool or to Warrington or to the University of Chester rather than to Aberystwyth or to Bangor.

"I think it's important that we have people who lead the university who are linked to the local community, and the transfer of governance and the transfer of that responsibility away from north east Wales will in my view damage the perception of the university in that community."

When it was published, Mr Andrews said the Hefcw report made "a persuasive case for change" and that he was minded to accept its "broad thrust".

He has previously warned universities to "adapt or die".

A Welsh Government consultation on Hefcw's proposals closes next month, and a spokesperson said: "The council's report sets out very clear recommendations for the future of the sector.

"We have published the report in full and are now seeking representations from stakeholders and the public on the council's recommendations."

A Hefcw spokeswoman said: "The minister has said that he is minded to accept the broad thrust of the recommendations we made in our report, and he has invited all interested stakeholders to comment on the analysis and recommendations set out in the report before reaching a firm view on the most appropriate structure for the future.

"Observations about the recommendations should be submitted to the Welsh Government as part of its request for representations, and we will not provide comments on the proposals while that process is in train."

Glyndwr University has been asked to respond.

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