Why Our Universities Really Matter Today; as Politicians across the Country Put the Finishing Touches to Their Manifestos, University Body Higher Education Wales Makes Its Own Submissions

Article excerpt

GOVERNMENT announcements on higher education have been flowing thick and fast over the last few months - on topics ranging from student fees and funding to governance and reconfiguration of the sector. Among all the messages it is important to pause and take stock of what it is we actually deliver and the longer-term benefits our universities bring to Wales. Wales' future economic prosperity depends on our ability to be a full participant in the global knowledge economy.

At the same time the promotion of social justice depends on the creation of economic prosperity and expansion of high educational opportunities for people across Wales.

The twin objectives of social justice and economic prosperity must be the foundation on which our universities embrace the future. But the HE sector recognises that the changed economic climate means we will need to build on the diversity, innovation and flexibility inherent in our universities in Wales, to maximise the benefits of the services we deliver.

The stakes are high - as a nation we are one of the least productive parts of the UK. The UK's competitors are moving ahead by increasing investment in research and science - and rapidly increasing the number of people with high-level skills.

The role of universities in helping Wales address these challenges is pivotal - higher education is one of the few indigenous generators of research and innovation of significant scale in Wales. Any reductions in the research and development taking place in the university sector will undercut Wales' ability to compete in the global knowledge economy.

The UK's competitor countries and regions have recognised the importance of universities to economic recovery and long-term economic growth by increasing public investment in their higher education systems and research. …