Glyndw R Drops Bombshell into Big University Debate; Glyndw R University Yesterday Dropped a Bombshell by Announcing Its Intention to Break Free from the University of Wales Alliance and Award Its Own Degrees. as the Pressure to Collaborate Intensifies, Education Correspondent Gareth Evans Looks at the Ramifications for the Welsh University Sector

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DISCUSSIONS within the corridors of power have been ongoing ever since universities in Wales were told to halve in number.

Vice-chancellors are primed for change and are under no illusions as to what is required of them by March 2013.

Mergers are inevitable and plans to scale back the number of Welsh universities, from 11 to six, are gathering pace.

Talks between Swansea Metropolitan, Trinity Saint David and the University of Wales are the most advanced, with a formal alliance expected by August next year.

Elsewhere, Bangor and Aberystwyth, short of merging, have reaffirmed their "trusting relationship" and Glamorgan's door remains open to collaboration.

The University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (Uwic) and Newport have entertained their own, very different merger thoughts.

The institutional reshuffle, unlike any other seen in Wales, is unlikely to affect Cardiff, the nation's leading Russell Group representative, or Swansea.

Glyndwr University, meanwhile, had been inauspiciously quiet - until yesterday.

In the latest in a long line of higher education bombshells, the Wrexham-based institution announced its intention to leave the University of Wales Alliance.

The move will mean that from next September, students on taught courses will be studying for degrees fully validated by the university itself.

Currently, Glyndw r's degrees are validated by the University of Wales.

But timing is significant and its decision to break free from the cluster now has thrown a collaborative cat amongst the pigeons.

A week after local politicians publicly opposed plans to transfer university leadership from the region, Glyndw r has split from its partners in the south. What does it mean - and what are the implications? In its blueprint on the future structure of Welsh universities, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw) suggested Glyndwr works with colleges under an umbrella led by Aberystwyth and Bangor.

But responding to a government consultation on the paper, a group of Labour MPs and AMs said the plans displayed a "woeful ignorance" of the needs of North-East Wales.

Ian Lucas, MP for Wrexham, is adamant the university must retain its position to help sustain the region's business, industry and economy.

He said Glyndwr should continue to be led from within North-East Wales and that its aims "should not be compromised by the agendas of other institutions". …