Fears That Budget Cuts Could Mean Our Universities Fail to Make the Grade; NO WELSH COLLEGES MAKE INTERNATIONAL TOP 200 LIST

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 16, 2010 | Go to article overview

Fears That Budget Cuts Could Mean Our Universities Fail to Make the Grade; NO WELSH COLLEGES MAKE INTERNATIONAL TOP 200 LIST


Byline: DARREN DEVINE

SPENDING cuts could see Welsh universities fall further behind top international rivals, it has been warned.

It comes as a list of the world's leading universities, published today, excludes Wales' higher education institutions from the top 200.

The Times Higher Education (THE) magazine did not list any Welsh universities in its global league table, with theUKhaving three institutions in the top 10 - Oxford and Cambridge placed joint sixth, and Imperial College London at ninth.

But there are only five British universities in the top 50, and just 14 in the top 100.

And the lack of presence from Wales in the ranking system has led to warnings that budget cuts will further affect universities' ability to compete.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director-general of The Russell Group of leading universities - of which Cardiff University is amember - said: "The real story behind all world league tables is that our universities still punch way above their weight on the world stage.

"But we will really struggle to sustain this success if we are subject to yet more cuts while our international competitors are pumping billions into their leading universities.

"The picture painted by the league table is certainly bleak forUKhigher education, but the many league tables on offer diverge widely in their results and methodology.

"Only last week, the QS league table placed eight UK universities in the top 50 and 19 UK universities in the world's top 100.

"This new table clearly has its limitations and inconsistencies - its compilers themselves admit to 'anomalies'.

"Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that the world-class status of our universities is under threat from other countries, particularly the US, who are flourishing as a result of the extra billions their governments have ploughed into their leading institutions. "The US also has the significant advantage of being able to top up this investment with higher contributions from their students.

"Our current 1.3% of GDP investment in higher education is already outpaced by the US, Germany, South Korea, Australia, Canada and Japan. "It would be a great shame and profoundly counterproductive to our aim of strengthening our economy ifwelost the invaluable asset of our world-class universities and the many economic, cultural and social benefits that flow from them."

Universities in Wales face an uncertain future, with Education Minister Leighton Andrews calling on a cut in the number of higher education institutions.

Mr Andrews has said he wants to see fewer vice-chancellors and "significantly" fewer higher education institutions in Wales, although he claimed that would not mean fewer students studying at Welsh universities.

The Minister claimed his plans mean Wales would be "better placed to compete internationally on the basis of excellence, help drive forward economic renewal, and deliver social justice".

Cardiff University spokesman Stephen Rouse said it was more concerned about feedback from students and research partners than league tables.

He said there were more the 33,400 applications for 4,423 places this year, making Cardiff one of the most popular student destinations in the country.

And the university has seen a 29% increase in postgraduate applications.

Mr Rouse said: "Cardiff's research has just won an overwhelming vote of confidence in the shape of its best ever year for new grants and awards.

"The university won a record pounds 150m for research projects, an increase of 36% on its previous best. Increased funding was won from business, Europe, the Welsh and UK governments and the UK research councils at a time when budgets are tightening and competition for funding is becoming much fiercer." Countries which have invested heavily in higher education, such as China, South Korea and Canada, are performing well, said magazine editor Ann Mroz. …

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