Senedd report gives seal of approval for creation of new higher education public body

Published 10/03/2022   |   Last Updated 10/03/2022   |   Reading Time minutes

A Senedd report has backed a Welsh Government Bill which will see one of the biggest re-organisation of the funding and regulatory structures in post-compulsory education in Wales since devolution.

The Tertiary Education and Research Bill aims to bring together all regulation and funding for post-16-year-old education underneath one body; including all Welsh universities, Further Education colleges and community colleges. This will create the second biggest public body in Wales outside of the Welsh Government and after the NHS.

The Bill, which will not be fully implemented until 2025, will abolish the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW)  and create one organisation which will also gain additional powers currently residing with Welsh Ministers.  These changes aim to make the options for lifelong learning in Wales much clearer and simpler to manoeuvre.

The report, published by the Children, Young People and Education Committee, argues that there are still additional things the Welsh Government must do to ensure the success of this re-organisation.

The Committee recommends that the learner and worker representation on the board, which will oversee the newly created body, is strengthened. The Committee is calling for an increase in the minimum number of representatives and for these representatives to have full voting rights which will enable them to directly shape the decisions of the new organisation.

The report also suggests that the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS, should strengthen the duty on the new organisation to promote Welsh medium tertiary education to reflect the longstanding ambition of one million Welsh speakers.

The Committee says that the duty on the new organisation must be stronger than the current wording which only states that it must ‘meet reasonable demand’ for Welsh language provision.

Jayne Bryant MS, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, said; “We’re pleased to support the general principles of this Bill and are recommending that these are agreed by the Senedd.

“Better learner and worker representation on the governance of this new organisation is a clear recommendation that we hope is addressed as the Bill makes its way through the Senedd.  We look forward to hearing from the Minister about how he intends to incorporate our recommendations into the Bill before it becomes law.

“As a Committee, we will consider the amendments tabled to the Bill in this next stage and will continue to keep an eye on the Bill’s implementation and how the considerable challenges and opportunities that the sector faces will be met over the next few years.”