Transforming Education... Transforming Lives
University of Wales: Trinity Saint David
1.1 This statement of intent sets out a strategic vision for the creation of a new regional educational group structure which will deliver transformational change in South West Wales. It proposes a radical framework for the delivery of post-16 education and proposes the creation of a new educational group infrastructure which will offer a range of meaningful educational pathways, enhance student choice and further joint educational provision. The proposal builds upon the current reconfiguration already approved by the Welsh Assembly Government within the region with the creation of a new University for Wales – the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David.
1.2 The paper is presented as an agreed common position between ourselves as Vice-Chancellors and Principals. It should be regarded as an initial outline of what could be achieved with the creation of a newly defined group university structure in South West Wales which would have a clear mission to serve Wales and further transformational change.
1.3 The intention is to create a new model for higher education within the region. The proposal to establish a group infrastructure is based upon the following planning assumptions. It is envisaged that both the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea Metropolitan University would merge all management, academic and support services so that, de facto, they are working as one institution. In addition, the Further Education institutions would all work as integral partners within the new dual sector university.
2 The Case for Change
2.1 In addressing the various policy directives identified by the Welsh Assembly Government, the higher education sector in Wales faces major strategic challenges. The For Our Future policy document identifies the necessity to consider the implications of strategic partnerships and new reconfiguration models. This has also been clearly attested in WAG’s Transforming Education and Training Provision in policy document. The status quo is not an option.
2.2 The time is right to establish new educational structures which will transform the educational landscape. Wales needs to be innovative in its educational system and delivery frameworks in order to establish regional groupings which will enhance economic delivery, support social capital and drive forward greater regional post 16 educational pathways. In doing so, we will secure greater synergy in our skills delivery and establish far stronger strategic partnerships with business, employers and work base learning providers.
2.3 South West Wales has been well served during the last two decades by the University of Glamorgan. The institution has, through its franchise programme, supported its accredited colleges in their delivery of higher education; this programme has enabled thousands of learners in the region to access higher education through these colleges. The University of Glamorgan has, as a consequence, made a substantial contribution to levels of educational attainment and the economic vibrancy of the region. As universities in Wales increasingly focus on the challenges and opportunities within their own region it is appropriate for the University of Glamorgan, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and its FE partners to consider the implications for their own regional delivery and presence. Any regional change will need to be planned and managed with care and sensitivity in order to secure a robust and appropriate programme of higher education provision.
2.4 The current vision for the establishment of the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David Group offers a strategic opportunity to define a new common shared critical path between the new institution and Swansea Metropolitan University and a number of Further Educational Colleges in South West Wales. A shared vision for the creation of a Dual Sector University within the region could be of great significance and benefit to post 16 education.
2.5 A dual sector university is defined as a group structure which brings together both further and higher education institutions within a geographical region. It establishes a dual sector configuration to take forward shared resources, planning, academic and research activity and single management structures to deliver tangible benefits for learners.
2.6 The proposal is a natural development on the current reconfiguration activities in West Wales. The creation of University of Wales: Trinity Saint David already establishes the basis for the creation of a dual sector University. The new University will be established as a collegiate University, thus establishing the framework for bringing Coleg Sir Gâr, Pembrokeshire College and Coleg Ceredigion into a new regional strategic alliance with the University. Following initial strategic discussions with the Boards of Governors at all the institutions it has been agreed that, subject to full Governing Board approval, closer academic partnerships will be established. In time this could lead to all HE courses being validated through the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David. The Principals would play a senior role in the strategic management of the University and would be appointed as Provosts. A single FE / HE educational plan would be created thus ensuring meaningful progression opportunities and a regional planning framework for further joint innovation, knowledge transfer and research opportunities.
2.7 For the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David, as it prepares to establish itself as a regional presence in West Wales, the timing is also appropriate to consider further refinement of the dual sector model and respond to new opportunities which could develop through establishing a unified educational infrastructure with Swansea Metropolitan University and extend the current FE / HE partnership framework with other educational providers. In doing so, we are strengthening regional capacity and establishing a strong basis for delivering transformational change.
2.8 It is clear that what is proposed in this paper challenges everyone involved in the management and delivery of educational provision within the region. It calls for a readiness to embrace change management and to work together to transform the current structures so that we widen the educational options available and create a strong dual university group structure and common strategic plan which will deliver clear institutional benefits, a sustainable future for education and research and enhance the students’ learning experience.
2.9 The possibility of both the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David and Swansea Metropolitan University coming together within a new unified educational infrastructure is based upon a long standing tradition of collaboration and of sharing common values, mission and educational provision. Both universities focus upon a clear regional mission and deliver quality provision which enhances regional progression.
3 Policy Context for Evaluating Options
3.1 In reviewing possible future options for collaboration, we have considered the policy issues which would directly affect any future reconfiguration. We are of the view that any new partnership would have to clearly demonstrate the added value of further public expenditure on supporting the current academic activity at both institutions. Any new initiative has to be able to demonstrate a focused strategic plan which will drive forward the identified priorities within the For Our Future policy document and which will build upon the distinctiveness of higher education within the region. We note that this has been a key driver for both institutions over the last decade. It is clear that any solution will have to have regard to the original Reaching Higher policy directive, in particular:
- the view expressed by Government that higher education in Wales will be defined less by institutions but rather by networks of excellence;
- a desire to see a diverse sector of varied missions;
- a desire to see institutions with a freedom to specialise in subjects and missions so defining their core missions;
- a desire to support clusters with a shared mission with a view that such geographically and functionally meaningful clusters would build greater institutional strengths;
- a desire to develop a bilingual education strategy for higher education throughout Wales.
3.2 We also note the importance placed within the For Our Future policy on redefining the current educational infrastructure and the commitment to use a higher proportion of public investment to drive forward the strategic priorities and intentions set out within the new HE policy framework. In particular:
- more people experiencing higher education in ways which are different from the traditional full time degree course;
- many more people able to progress their higher education in steps including through focused and employer led part time and work based higher education;
- much greater flexibility in the structure, size, and delivery of programmes to maximise opportunities for those who enter HE;
- student financial support targeted where it is most needed;
- much stronger prevalence of partnership and collaboration between providers to make best use of strengths and resources;
- Stronger interaction between providers and businesses;
- Stronger capacity and capability to exploit knowledge.
3.3 The need to establish a new regional educational system which has regard to the priorities within the Wales Spatial Plan, People, Places, Futures is crucial. The implications of this policy document are critical for any possible collaboration given that it provides a shared strategic direction against which Welsh Assembly Government investment, both capital and revenue, can be considered and agreed. Any possible development will therefore have to clearly demonstrate how further investment in higher and further education will drive forward economic and social innovation, and enhance higher level skills, education and learning.
3.4 The Wales Spatial Plan clearly identifies a role for a dual sector university institution which could take forward a range of the strategic challenges identified within the three relevant area strategies – those being Central Wales, Pembrokeshire – the Haven and the Swansea Bay – Waterfront and Western Valleys. Creating a new university group structure which can deliver a range of educational programmes, vocational training and applied research will certainly deliver the priorities set by the new Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning. In a period of economic challenge, the need for new models of educational planning and delivery is crucial. This needs to be target focussed with clear measurable outputs which demonstrates regional additionality.
3.5 In the same context, consideration will need to be given to the Skills and Employment Strategy which was published by the Welsh Assembly Government. The Action Plan includes a new demand led skills approach to professional development and the requirement on universities to actively engage in this agenda. It also focuses upon the role of higher and further education in developing integrated learning networks across Wales. It is clear that any new collaborative activity would have to show how it responded to enhancing knowledge transfer activities linked to the priorities of the Welsh Assembly Government. It is proposed that the establishment of a new dual sector university infrastructure will drive forward work based learning initiatives and further regional planning. Already the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea Metropolitan University have been awarded HEFCW funding to drive forward a South West Wales Economic Initiative which brings together, within a single confederation, all the FE institutions and the regional boards of commerce. This new dual sector university would drive this agenda as a high priority area thus further developing relationships between HE and employers in the region and strengthening the contribution of the sector to workforce development.
3.6 Consideration could also be given to the development of an extended alliance through the University of Wales. It is clear that both institutions will continue to work towards developing the all Wales alliance and will establish national networks with other members across Wales. This, we believe, will offer added value to HE provision and will enhance capacity. Already, both institutions
have benefited from receiving substantial funding from the University of Wales to establish Chairs in subject priority areas established by the Welsh Assembly Government. We envisage further strategic investment at a regional level through the development of the University of Wales alliance.
3.7 Any new solution must build upon the current core strengths of the two institutions. Both UWTSD and SMU are recognised as strong learning institutions. The traditional context in which they deliver higher education courses has to be maintained. Within any new partnership there should be no diminution of the strong historical brands that are currently seen within the local communities of Lampeter, Carmarthen and Swansea. This is essential to any new development.
3.8 In managing institutional change it is proposed that the best option for UWTSD and SMU would be the creation of a new dual sector university group infrastructure which would build upon the historic strengths of both institutions; the potential of which is both exciting and dynamic. It is not often that universities in Wales have the opportunity to recreate themselves and transform their organisations into new innovative establishments which would deliver a range of higher and further education courses and research activity related to regional, national and international contexts.
4 Rationale for Collaboration
4.1 There are a number of benefits to be achieved from the proposed development of a new dual sector group infrastructure for students, the communities served by the current institutions and the institutions themselves. These include:
- The new dual sector university would build upon the importance of regional planning and modelling post 16 provision as a seamless progression opportunity.
- It would address issues for students who are geographically constrained and also support employers who are seeking education support for skills development.
- The dual sector model eliminates the divide between strong vocational FE work and HE delivery. It also celebrates the importance of research activity in all its forms and how applied research could be developed which would be region specific and which would cover a broad skill base for innovation.
- Building upon the current success of key departments at both HE institutions and at Coleg Sir Gâr, Pembrokeshire College and Coleg Ceredigion, and with the possible inclusion of other FE colleges across a range of specialized applied research areas, the university would also build upon the commitment shown by institutions to develop applied research associated with WAG policy directives and professional networks. This combination of technical and applied higher level knowledge would position the new university to establish strong cluster specific skill hubs across the region which would address employer needs. The range of academic areas offered by both UWTSD and SMU together with Coleg Sir Gâr, Pembrokeshire College and Coleg Ceredigion would constitute a very strong regional platform to maximize further knowledge transfer and innovation partnerships in response to the economic needs of the region.
- A focus upon widening access and increasing participation. All institutions within the group structure would be branded as learning institutes, and are each small enough to be able to focus upon securing a high added value to learning and teaching. This should provide a sound joint basis for the development of innovative learning and teaching strategies to encourage participation, widening access and further enhance new exciting courses relevant to the needs of the region.
- The establishment of a strong regional dual sector university in South West Wales would complement the academic provision at both the University of Aberystwyth and the University of Swansea which have a very different mission as research-led institutions. Whilst accepting that there will be some overlap in certain academic areas it would not directly compete with these institutions as the mission and the core academic activity would be focused upon different strategic priorities. The choice would therefore be maintained in an area where there is still considerable scope for improving participation. There would always be a strong commitment to pursuing appropriate and beneficial collaborative initiatives with the two research-led universities.
- The potential of having within a South West Wales region two universities – one research intensive leading on cutting edge research, the other a dual sector university bridging post 16 provision and developing a focussed regional skill base offering a range of FE/HE provision across several lifelong learning campuses would be an exciting new development.
- The new group structure should be an influential change agent within the emerging local and regional development plan. Its asset base would be such that it would potentially attract new partnership activity with local authorities and other public bodies which could provide significant influence and leverage with new financial stakeholders. This is in line with the Welsh Assembly Government’s policy – ‘Making the connections’ agenda.
- The complementarity of its provision could extend the product range in education provision in South West Wales, thus enhancing progression and offering new learning pathways with a range of FE/voluntary partners for lifelong learning. The group structure will have the opportunity to establish radical structures and frameworks which will embed the institution within the educational infrastructure of mid and West Wales. The imperative is to increase more part-time study within the locality which certainly would be facilitated by the development of a new West Wales Lifelong Learning Partnership which would service the needs identified within the Welsh Assembly Government’s Spatial Plan.
- The creation of a single university group structure would reduce wasteful competition, enabling resources to be redirected towards furthering links with industry, commerce and key public sector stakeholders in order to meet their needs and, in doing so, enhance and diversify income sources.
- The future possibility of enhancing collaborative working through shared central support functions and services across both University of Wales: Trinity Saint David, Swansea Metropolitan University and the FE colleges would lead to improvements in terms of customer service, effectiveness and efficiency.
- There would be significant increase in the management and development capability as a result of pooling of expertise and human resources.
- It is also proposed that the collaboration would create an excellent opportunity to enhance facilities for inward investment and the long term rationalisation of the estates of each of the existing institutions.
5 Defining a vision for the future
5.1 The success of the current proposal will depend upon articulating a clear dynamic vision for a new higher education vocational system in Wales. The creation of a dual sector infrastructure will need to demonstrate a creative approach to identifying niche areas whereby it can specialise and clearly show added value to the current HE context in Wales and further afield. The vision has to be clear, realistic and realisable. It has to be able to demonstrate the strong links with Wales and how it delivers with regard to economic, social and cultural regeneration.
5.2 The success of such a vision will be based upon the acceptance of a multi-dimensional strategy which will celebrate and build upon excellence which shows the commonality between FE, HE and work based learning providers. A priority activity would be to break down the traditional barriers between the various sectors.
6 Evaluation of Strategic Issues
6.1 We believe that the new dual sector structure would engage effectively with the local community in South West Wales and clearly demonstrate the added value of developing and extending capacity.
6.2 The culture change required for creating such a vision will not be significant. Both Universities share a common vision and culture. The level of strategic engagement already undertaken in partnership is high. We are of the view that the appropriate skills are already available to lead such an exercise. There exists within the current management teams of the two institutions the expertise, commitment and skills to create an effective senior management team to drive forward the development of such an initiative.
6.3 Developing effective management will be crucial. The strengthening of clear management structures with accountable operational frameworks would be a priority activity in the interim period. The new group structure would have to secure the highest standards of quality assurance in order to gain the confidence of both the Quality Assurance Agency and the Funding Council in the delivery of higher education courses in Wales. SMU has a long standing tradition of delivering quality. In the same context, Trinity University College is recognised for its quality provision.
7.1 This statement of intent sets out a strategic context for change – the continuation of a journey which will radically transform post-16 education in South West Wales and deliver a innovative dual sector infrastructure responsive to the educational, economic and social challenges of the region. Careful consideration will need to be given to realistic timescales which will respond positively to the needs of the region; as we elaborate on this vision the views of staff and all stakeholders will need to be considered. Our governing bodies will then work to drive forward a step change in provision in order to secure a strong regional portfolio of education in South West Wales.