Major Shake-Up for Colleges and Universities Announced; HIGHER EDUCATION: Strategy Seeks Far Closer Collaboration between Institutions
Byline: TOBY MASON Political Correspondent
UNIVERSITIES and colleges in Wales face their biggest shake-up for decades under ambitious new plans unveiled yesterday.
Education minister Jane Davidson unveiled the Assembly Government's long-awaited higher education strategy, which will see far closer collaboration between colleges.
In a surprise announcement, she ended the cap on student numbers for Welsh colleges, meaning they are free to take on as many students as they want.
However, they will get no extra money from the Assembly to do so, and will only receive the tuition fees paid by the students themselves. It could mean, however, that more foreign students will be taken on, who pay substantially higher fees themselves.
The move pre-empts an announcement to be made in England today.
In a wide-ranging and widely welcomed statement, Ms Davidson said the Assembly would make available pounds 3m of new money to encourage clustering of colleges across Wales.
The money will be contingent on real progress being made towards a more collaborative, rather than competitive environment, the minister stressed.
She said, "Through collaboration institutions can redirect money into core functions.
"At the same time collaboration will give institutions critical mass to compete for students and research funding and contracts.
"Reconfiguration means making the best of what we have, cherishing the diversity of a sector rich in research, teaching, knowledge exploitation and widening access across the whole of Wales.
"Competition can be healthy, but collaboration is healthier."
The minister resisted ordering what form the clusters should take. …