Wales politics

Ministers 'wrong to withdraw funding from scholarship'

University of Wales
Image caption Ministers pulled funding from the Powis scholarship last month

The Welsh government has been accused of a "perverse" decision to withdraw European funding from a University of Wales scholarship scheme.

The Liberal Democrats say funding should have continued, based on a leaked report about the the Prince of Wales Innovation Scheme (Powis).

It looked to attract top graduates to work on research projects within firms.

But the minister in charge said there were shortcomings in the scheme and it was not delivering.

The £11m Powis project focused on hi-tech industries in West Wales and the Valleys.

Consultants commissioned by the university said the programme was a success.

The University of Wales' (UoW) audit committee asked consultants PriceWaterhouse Coopers to review the government's decision.

After obtaining a leaked copy, the Lib Dems said it represented a "point by point rebuttal" of the government's decision.

Lib Dem spokesman Peter Black said withdrawing funding sent a signal to academics and investors that the Welsh government does not understand the needs of business.

He said the report made clear that Powis was a "success" and points to 54 Research and development projects and investment of £9.2m, of which £408,000 has come from Welsh European Funding Office.

'Value for money'

"That is much better value for money than most European investments," he said. "With this in mind, the Welsh government's decision to withdraw funding verges on the incredulous.

"As the report asks, why didn't the government address these so-called problems at the time they arose, rather than simply withdrawing money and then explaining the difficulties?"

Speaking in the Senedd on Wednesday, Business Minister Edwina Hart said the Welsh government identified "significant management and governance shortcomings".

"Put simply it was not delivering on its promise to be the Rolls-Royce of schemes attracting world-class scholars to help boost innovation among business," she said.

The scheme departed from an agreed business plan, putting EU funds at risk "potentially leading to the loss of monies to Wales".

The government would provide AMs with the findings of another report into the scheme on Thursday, she said.

The decision to pull funding last month came as the UoW faced mounting criticism in the wake of a BBC Wales investigation into an alleged student visa scam at colleges offering UoW-validated courses.

The UoW has since decided to merge with two other universities, effectively abolishing the institution.

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