Plaid call for Welsh Government action on higher ed crisis

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Plaid AM Bethan Sayed calls for government intervention to halt crisis of governance and funding in Welsh universities

Plaid Cymru have called for Welsh Government to intervene to tackle the crisis facing the higher education sector in Wales.

Speaking ahead of the Plaid Cymru debate today, Bethan Sayed AM and Plaid Cymru shadow post-16 education minister said Welsh Government must take action to ensure transparency and accountability of the governance of Wales’ universities.

Ms Sayed argued that universities in Wales are not fully autonomous because they receive public funding through HEFCW - a Welsh Government body, and that Welsh Government, therefore, have a direct responsibility to hold HE institutions in Wales to account and ensure the governance process is adhered to and that funding from HEFCW is spent appropriately.

Bethan Sayed AM said Welsh Government must commission “an urgent review of the financial sustainability" of the Welsh university sector, as well as giving HEFCW a mandate to intervene to prevent the bankruptcy of any higher education institution in Wales in the immediate future - by means of an emergency loan if necessary.

She added that there was a clear need for students and staff” to be partners in all forms of decision-making in universities - including decisions relating to financial viability and staffing.

Ms Sayed said that Welsh Government could not ‘wash their hands’ of the crisis and urged them to take responsibility of the situation before it was too late.

Bethan Sayed AM and Plaid Cymru shadow post-16 education minister said,

“The crisis facing Wales’ higher education sector has caused significant job losses over the last twelve months with staff under increasing pressure to fill the gaps left by cuts. There are also significant concerns with governance, accountability and financial sustainability of Wales’ HE institutions.

“The Welsh Government are wrongly claiming universities are “autonomous” and beyond interference despite the fact universities in Wales receive public funding through HEFCW - a Welsh Government sponsored and funded body, to whom HEFCW is directly accountable.

“Welsh Government cannot wash their hands of this crisis. They have a direct responsibility to hold these institutions to account to ensure the governance process is adhered to appropriately and transparently, and that money from HEFCW is being spent in the right way.

Welsh Government must commission an urgent, review of the financial sustainability of the Welsh university sector as well as tasking HEFCW with an explicit mandate to intervene to prevent the bankruptcy of any higher education institution in Wales. Furthermore, there is a clear need for students and staff to be partners at all levels and in all forms of decision-making in universities - including decisions relating to the staff and financial viability of institutions.

“The UK Government’s policy is that in the English higher education market, should a university ‘go to the wall’, then so be it. We need the Welsh Government to make absolutely clear that the economic, social, and educational value of our universities is such that it would not allow that to happen here in Wales.

“The crisis rapidly emerging in the HE sector means that it is time for the Welsh Government to act – now. 

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