New body proposed to shape Welsh universities and colleges

By Bethan Lewis
BBC Wales education correspondent

image captionFurther education colleges like this one in Ebbw Vale are funded directly by Welsh Government

The body which distributes public money to universities should be scrapped and replaced with a new organisation, a report has recommended.

A Welsh Government-commissioned review says a new Tertiary Education Authority should replace the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw).

Beyond funding, it would shape a vision of universities, further education colleges and training to 2030.

The education minister said a decision would be made after May's election.

At the moment, funding for further education and training comes directly from ministers while Hefcw distributes money from the Welsh Government to universities.

The review by Professor Ellen Hazelkorn - a higher education expert at the Dublin Institute of Technology - recommends that education policy and institutions should be more focused on Wales' social and economic goals.

She told BBC Wales she saw the new body as having more to do with "leading and shaping" further and higher education rather than just a funding role.

Big changes

Prof Hazelkorn said colleges and universities needed to take a long-term vision to 2030 and beyond and be ready to respond.

"What are the big changes? How do you see Welsh society and the economy developing? How does higher and further education fit within that?" she said.

Traditionally universities have provided degrees and colleges focused on vocational qualifications but in recent years the dividing lines have been less clear.

Last month the Welsh government reversed planned cuts to Hefcw's budget by around a third.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt said it would have to find savings of £11m rather than the £42m it had originally faced.

Commissioning the review in July 2015, Education Minister Huw Lewis said there were different arrangements for overseeing post-compulsory education and some were more effective than others.

Mr Lewis, who is stepping down from the assembly, said he would not be commenting on the report and it would be a matter for the government elected in May.

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