University merger 'conspiracy', says Dr Peter Noyes

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Media captionThe Vice Chancellor of Newport University says he thinks there's a "conspiracy" against his university which will cut student numbers.

The vice chancellor of the University of Wales Newport has told BBC Wales he believes there is a conspiracy to force it to merge with others.

Dr Peter Noyes says new finance arrangements by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw) means 20% fewer students next year.

Hefcw says universities will receive more income in the new arrangements.

But Dr Noyes believes this is a move to force the merging of some universities in south east Wales.

"It is difficult to not come to the conclusion that there is some conspiracy against the university here in Newport and trying to force us into a merged situation with two other institutions," he told BBC Wales.

He said the Hefcw had not offered any explanation why they are offering fewer places in the area.

"You have to try and then extrapolate from that and work out what are the reasons they might have.

"And the big one that I think is extant is the fact that they are trying to push the merger of the institutions in south east Wales."

Tuition fees

He wants to see a new institution because the "notion of bolting together three institutions lacks vision".

Last November, the Welsh government announced its desire to create a new "super university" in south east Wales, combining the University of Wales Newport, Glamorgan University and Cardiff Metropolitan University.

The board of governors at Cardiff Metropolitan University have already said they are opposed to any new enlarged institution and say they are prepared to fight the move in the courts.

Dr Noyes says his focus is on reversing the decision to fund fewer places before entering talks over wider changes.

The Hefcw has allocated undergraduate places based on a new formula which has left Newport University with 311 fewer students next year.

Aberystwyth University could potentially lose over 500 places, but will generate income through charging the maximum £9,000 in tuition fees.

Hefcw says each university will receive more income overall for full-time undergraduate and PGCE students by 2014/15 than it would have done had the old funding system been projected forwards.

In a statement, Hefcw added that following its advice in the summer of 2011 about the future structure of higher education, the education minister accepted the recommendation for the development of a "strong, competitive" university from the pre-1992 former polytechnics in south east Wales.

"In the light of the Welsh government's ongoing discussions with the institutions concerned, we do not believe it is appropriate for Hefcw to discuss reconfiguration in south-east Wales at this time."

The Welsh government says the re-allocation of student numbers is a matter for Hefcw, but that it believes the proposals are "sensible and proportionate".

A spokesperson added: "It is important to note that even with the re-allocation of student numbers every higher education institute in Wales will still be better off under the new fee regime than they would have been under the old funding system.

"This has been achieved against a backdrop of funding cuts to Wales in the UK Government's last spending review."

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