Cardiff Metropolitan University included in merger plan

A report out on Monday found the universities involved were 'small, dangerously so in two of the three cases'

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Education Minister Leighton Andrews has announced plans for a shake-up that could leave south east Wales with two universities within four years.

He told the Welsh assembly he will start the process of winding up Newport and Cardiff Metropolitan universities.

Consultations will be held into their dissolution to form a new institution by merging with Glamorgan University.

Newport has already agreed to merge but Cardiff Metropolitan (CMU) has been determined to stay independent.

The announcement on Tuesday comes a day after a report concluded that Newport and CMU could not survive if they did not merge.

Start Quote

The university will now consider its next steps, especially in light of the continued failure to provide a single piece of evidence to support such a merger”

End Quote Cardiff Metropolitan University

Mr Andrews said he had noted the response of the CMU board to the planned merger of Newport and Glamorgan after it voted 13-1 in favour of staying independent.

He said the merger was likely to use the vehicle of the University of Glamorgan, making it necessary to dissolve the University of Wales Newport, higher education corporation.

Consult

At the same time, a similar consultation will be held into CMU, formerly called Uwic.

The minister told AMs he hoped to see progress in CMU's involvement in the merger by 2014.

He added that a new board will spend two years drawing up a blueprint for the merged university, which as yet does not have a name. It will also include the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

He said: "If the outcome of the statutory consultations resulted in the dissolution of the institutions affected, I would expect that Hefcw's (Higher Education Funding Council for Wales) public funding of provision in south-east Wales from 2015-16 onwards would support two higher education institutions, Cardiff University and the new merged metropolitan University.

Mr Andrews said the intention was for a smaller number of stronger universities

"I believe at this point that Hefcw's recommendations for south-east Wales, leading to a more focused research-intensive institution alongside a strong metropolitan university, are the way forward."

On Monday a report commissioned by the Welsh government called for the creation of a new institution.

Its author, Prof Sir Steve Smith, vice chancellor of Exeter University, said the universities involved were "small, dangerously so in two of the three cases (Newport and CMU)".

For the Conservatives, shadow education minister Angela Burns said: "The minister is obsessed with coercing one of Wales' top performing universities into a merger, irrespective of the views of the students affected.

"The minister's bullying is creating significant turbulence and uncertainty for staff and prospective students and risks creating the downward spiral, which the he claims he is seeking to avoid."

A Cardiff Metropolitan University spokesperson said it was disappointed.

"The university will now consider its next steps, especially in light of the continued failure to provide a single piece of evidence to support such a merger," said the spokesperson.

"The board of governors will need time to review the substance of the statement before commenting further."

A spokesman for the University of Wales, Newport said it welcomed the announcement and awaited further information on the minister's timetable.

"From the beginning of this process, Newport has maintained its commitment to the creation of a new institution that will produce an ambitious step-change in higher education provision in the region."

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