University mergers: Cardiff Met and Newport 'can't survive'

Cardiff Metropolitan University, Management School Education Minister Leighton Andrews is due to make an announcement on higher education

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Two south Wales colleges will not survive unless they merge with a third institution, a report has concluded.

The report author, Prof Sir Steve Smith, vice chancellor of Exeter University, says Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU), should merge with Newport and Glamorgan universities.

He believes CMU - which opposes a union - and Newport "cannot survive in the medium term without merger".

Education Minister Leighton Andrews said it was a "well-considered" report.

Start Quote

This is absolutely not to say that the institutions are weak: it is more the case that they are small, dangerously so in two of the three cases”

End Quote Prof Sir Steve Smith University of Exeter

Prof Smith compiled the report for the Welsh government, which supports a merger after a review of higher education in Wales.

His findings come a less than a week after CMU's board voted 13-1 in favour of staying as an independent institution.

Prof Smith says he studied evidence of attempts to re-configure higher education in Wales and "the paperwork painted a story of missed opportunities, and a lack of strategic thinking that I am convinced has held back opportunities for the people of Wales, and for the institutions themselves".

Referring to previous studies which identified a danger of a "spiral of decline," he concluded "that this spiral will become a reality unless a single university is created in SE Wales".

He claims the three institutions together could be "as strong as the University of the West of England".

He stressed that they were not weak, but instead "small, dangerously so in two of the three cases (Newport and CMU)".

'Invaluable support'

Glamorgan and Newport said earlier this month that they would begin discussions on a merger.

CMU though, wants to go it alone and says it aims to be in the top 10 of new UK universities within five years.

Mr Andrews, who is expected to make an announcement on higher education in south east Wales on Tuesday, said: "It is a clear, balanced and well-considered report and I am very grateful for Prof Smith's work on this. His support has been invaluable."

A spokesperson for the University of Glamorgan said it had "long supported the case for the creation for a single, modern university for south east Wales and we are pleased that Sir Steve Smith's report shares this view."

Bethan Thomas, of the University and College Union (UCU) Wales, said Cardiff Met should not "play politics with the jobs and livelihoods of its employees," and urged the governors to "see sense and reverse their perverse position".

CMU has been asked to comment, while Newport declined to do so until after Mr Andrews's announcement.

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