Glamorgan and Newport universities announce merger plan

Two south Wales universities are to merge in a move they claim will allow them to compete on the world stage.

Glamorgan and Newport say the new institution will rival the size of Cardiff University, give students more opportunities and boost the economy.

They are working together on a detailed merger blueprint, which will include discussion on the institution's name.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews has spoken of his wish for one "super" university in south east Wales.

Plans to merge Cardiff Metropolitan, Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport, were unveiled in November, but Cardiff Metropolitan - formerly Uwic - was opposed to the idea.

Newport's former vice-chancellor Peter Noyes stood down for personal reasons in May, shortly after claiming there was a "conspiracy" to force the merger of the three universities.

Dr Noyes said at the time that new finance arrangements by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw) would mean 20% fewer students next year as part of a move to "push" merger of universities.

But Hefcw said then that each university would 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.

Glamorgan and Newport have now said that their merger plan grew out of their collaboration on the Universities of the Heads of the Valleys.

In a statement they said the new institution "will be designed to remain open for further expansion with potential partners in the future".

'International markets'

They said the merger was intended to "achieve a step-change in the ability to compete in the UK and international markets".

Andrew Wilkinson, chair of the board of governors at the University of Wales, Newport, said: "The governors of the University of Wales, Newport welcome this development as both institutions seek to build on their respective strengths to develop a new, entrepreneurial model of higher education across south Wales."

His opposite number at Glamorgan, Prof John Andrews said: "This is a good time for us to further develop the scale and range of our combined higher education offer across south Wales to become an institution that can compete not only in the UK but on a global basis."

Stephanie Lloyd, the president of the National Union of Students in Wales, said she welcomed the announcement, and urged both colleges to involve its students in the process.

Student support

"The student reaction on the whole is very positive," she said.

"After two years of uncertainty about whether the universities would merge, it's really good to actually get real clarity on where we go moving forward.

"For us, it can be a real opportunity to ensure that the student experience across the south-east of Wales is actually really improved."

Prof Sir Deian Hopkin, who wrote about Welsh university mergers in 2008, said the latest announcement was to be expected.

"There has been an awful lot of collaboration going on - notably between Glamorgan and Newport in the Heads of the Valleys education programme.

"They have similar missions, they do the same sort of things, widening participation and so on, so there is a kind of logic behind this. And of course there is political pressure.

"I think there are great opportunities. It is a very interesting spread of what is on offer, and that mirrors what is happening elsewhere in the world."

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