No 23: The proposed changes to the Charter and Statutes of the University of Wales

The proposed changes to the Charter and Statutes of the University of Wales

In Blog 22 I revealed that the Privy Council had sent me a copy of the proposed changes to the Charter and Statutes they had received in June 2012, information that the University had refused to disclose.  Even though the Privy Council believe that University intend to withdraw these proposals I believe that it is well worth revealing some of the changes now that I’ve had time to study the mass of documents.

The introduction to the guidance document by the lawyers Eversheds states clearly that “the majority of the changes reflect amendments required or are advisable in light of the proposed merger between the University and the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David under the Charter of the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David”.  This was therefore an interim step in the merger process but at the end of this stage the University of Wales remain a body with its own Royal Charter. 

They also state that “many parts of the existing Charter will be transferred to the University’s Ordinances so that they are easier to amend in the future.”    They probably mean that such changes could be done without much scrutiny in the future which shows how important these current proposed changes, or those that replace, them are.

Graduates no longer members of the University

Clause II in the current Charter states clearly that the Graduates, and others, are “members of the University”.    This clause has been completely removed and, as far as I can see, there will no longer be any “members of the University”.   People like me, when awarded our degree at the awards ceremony, automatically became members of the University for life, but no longer if these proposals go ahead.

Requirement to consult deleted 

The Statutes have been completely deleted with the exception of the section dealing with University staff, their conditions of service, disciplinary procedures etc.   Clause 11 in the current Statutes states clearly that the University “shall regularly consult with its Graduates”.    It’s no surprise that this clause has been deleted given the University’s Council and Vice-chancellor’s past behaviour in completely ignoring this statutory requirement.   They don’t want this nonsense of having to consult; they just want to carry on doing what they want to do without taking any notice of anyone else!

New clause to estblish “Guild” 

There is a new clause in the Charter stating that “There shall be a Guild which shall include the alumni and honorary graduates of the University.   The Guild shall, subject to the absolute control of the Council, be a consultative body for stakeholders of the University.”  Yes, the University will consult but only on their terms and under their strict control!   That is, if any consultation comes up with a response that is against their wishes it will be completely ignored!

Stalinist approach!

When I read this I had a quick look at the names of the members of the University Council to see if there was a “J. Stalin” amongst them!    No, he wasn’t there but the spirit of Joe Stalin lives on in the University of Wales Council. 

Thank goodness that these proposals are to be withdrawn, but what will be the new proposals that the University are going to propose in the future?   These could be even worse!   I wonder whether there will be a consultation on these proposals before they are presented as is required by the University’s present Charter and Statutes?

Will the Privy Council consider any changes? 

The big question is whether the Privy Council will be prepared to even consider the proposals.   The University has completely ignored the requirement of its Statutes before the Council took the fateful decision on 21 October 2011 to dissolve the University and merge with another.    The decision was therefore unconstitutional as is every action resulting from this unconstitutional act.   Under these circumstances I can’t see how the Privy Council can possibly consider any changes when they result from an unconstitutional act.

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No 22: The Privy Council releases information which the University of Wales refuses to disclose

The Privy Council releases information which the University of Wales refuses to disclose

As disclosed in Blog No 4 Medwin Hughes, the Vice-chancellor of the University of Wales, sent a letter dated 5 September 2012 to Leighton Andrews, the Education Minister, stating that the University had sent proposed changes to the University’s Charter and Statutes to the Privy Council in June 2012.   I received this information in December 2012 and subsequently obtained confirmation from the Privy Council that they had received the documentation.   Early January 2013 I sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the University requesting a copy of the proposed changes. 

I received a timely reply to a number of other questions I’d asked but I did not receive a copy of the changes sent to the Privy Council.   I was simply told that these would be the subject of on-going discussions. I asked again for a copy but did receive anything. 

Information from the Privy Council within the statutory 20 days

Because of my previous experience of trying to get information from the University (see Blog No 14 for details), I sent a request for a copy of the documents to the Privy Council on 25 March.   The Privy Council had confirmed that they had received the documents and I duly received a copy within the statutory 20 working days.   What a contrast with the attitude of the University of Wales!

This raises huge questions regarding the disgraceful secrecy about what’s going on within the University of Wales (UoW).  The University was refusing to release the information but the Privy Council was prepared to do so.  This doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve had numerous correspondences with the Privy Council and found that they have always been honest and open.

In September 2012 I sent a FOI request to the UoW and on 12 October I received a promise of the information within 20 days.   I received answers to a number of questions at the beginning of December and a further answer early January 2013.   But I’m still waiting for copies of the minutes of the meetings of the University Council before and after the meeting on 21 October 2011 when they totally ignored the requirements of their own Statues and decided to dissolve the University and merge with another university.  

No information from the University of Wales 

Over 6 months later I’m still waiting for documents which the Information Commissioner’s Office say should be publicly available and it raises enormous questions about the University’s attitude and the effectiveness of its management.   It raises questions about the Chief Executive and the total ineffectiveness of the University Council.    I made these points in my letter to the Privy Council as I wanted them to know what’s going on.  

No information from UoW: Trinity Saint David 

Early November 2012 I sent a request for the minutes of the meetings of the University Council of the University of Wales; Trinity Saint David (TSD) and on 13 November 2012 I received an acknowledgement but 5 months on I’m still waiting.   Another disgraceful situation and one starts to ask whether these universities actually keep minutes of the meetings of their governing bodies!    The one factor that is common to both the UoW and TSD is that Medwin Hughes is the Vice-chancellor of both universities.     

Prompt reply from Swansea Metropolitan University 

How different from the response of Swansea Metropolitan University who sent me copies of the minutes of their governing body within 15 days of my FOI request.   Clearly the management of the Swansea Met is far more efficient than that of UoW and TSD as is their attitude to openness.   Or at least it was before they merged with TSD!

UoW now expected to withdraw the proposed changes 

The Senior Clerk of the Privy Council revealed that the Council has not started to consider the proposed changes sent in June 2012 as they’ve been awaiting the outcome of discussions between the University and senior Welsh Government staff.   However, they’ve heard that the University intends to withdraw the proposals sent by expensive lawyers Eversheds last June and will be sending new proposals in due course to reflect the discussions with the Welsh Government officials.   This is another example of the openness of the Privy Council compared to the secrecy of the UoW.   

However, I wonder why the Welsh Government officials are bothering to discuss the changes to the Charter and Statutes when the Education Minister has said in a letter that he is not bothered whether or not a university follows the requirements of its Statues.

The email from Eversheds to the Privy Council with the proposed changes dated 18 June 2012 said that they would ask the University for a signed set of minutes approving the changes.   Following my experience, I wonder whether they ever received these minutes!

UoW deletes minutes of University Council and the Academic Board from its website 

Up to February there were minutes of one meeting of the University Council during 2010 on the University’s website but since the beginning of March these have been removed.   There were also copies of minutes of numerous meetings of the Academic Board on the website but these have now also been deliberately removed.   This is totally against the freedom of information guidelines for institutions of higher education and is disgraceful.    This is a sad reflection of the attitude of the University authorities and of the Welsh Government.      

 

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No 21: Adduned Cymru – The Welsh Pledge (3): the financial implications

Adduned Cymru – The Welsh Pledge (3): the financial implications

In Blog 18 I wrote about the proposed Wales Universities Trust to be established to care for funds currently worth £5.5 million which had been donated to the University and the Land Trust to care for the lands for which the University was responsible under the Welsh Churches Act.   In Blog 19 I wrote about two proposed Trusts to which £500,000 had been allocated.   These sums had been identified in the News Release issued on 10 December 2012 which boasted of a £6.8 million hand-out but it’s significant that no financial figures are given in the version of Adduned Cymru which appeared on the University’s website earlier this month!   

The original declaration gave the following summary of the Adduned Cymru promise:

Wales Universities Trust                   £5.5 million, which was not the University’s money but                                                                   funds that were held in trust by the University

The Land Trust                                   value of the land

Heritage Academy Trust                  £500,000

University of Wales Press Trust      £500,000

The Gregynog Trust                            use of some of the university’s historic unrestricted                                                                 endowments

This gives a total of £6.5 million which is £300,000 short of the £6.8 million given in the 10 December 2012 News Release and highlighted in the media at the time.

When I asked for an explanation of this difference I was told that “at this initial stage no funding has been allocated to specific trusts.   Further information will available in due course.”   This is in direct contradiction to the News release of 10 December 2012.   Incredible you may think.   But no, this is par for the course for the University of Wales Council and the Chief Executive.  

The current webpage outlining “Adduned Cymru- The Welsh Pledge” makes no mention of any financial figures but the original News Release of 10 December 2012 can currently be seen on the University’s website by going to the “News” section.   If you want to read it I suggest you do so quickly as I’m convinced that it will soon be removed.  The one thing I’ve learnt over the past few months is to ensure that I take a copy of items of interest that I see on the University’s website before the authorities remove it in the way the minutes of the Academic Board have been removed – see Blog No. 15.   I’ve taken a copy so that I can prove that my views are based on fact.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the News Release of 10 December 2012 was nothing more than a publicity stunt to try to demonstrate the University’s generosity – with £5.5 million that wasn’t theirs in the first place!   Sums of £500,000 had been pluck out of the air for two of the proposed Trusts without any assessment of needs or any attempt to prepare Business Plans.   But following the Awen Wales Limited (see Blog No. 17) debacle one can’t be surprised.   One can’t have any faith whatsoever in the University’s ability to prepare and implement Business Plans. 

What about the rest of the University’s assets?

Given that the University’s net assets in the Financial Report for the year ending 31 July 2011 are given as over £28 million I asked what was to happen to the balance of the assets once funding had been provided to the proposed Trusts and for any other issues that may require funding.   I was informed that on the date of the finalisation of the merger with University of Wales: Trinity Saint David that all remaining funds would be transferred to the new university.    

There we have it.  The only purpose of the proposed merger is to transfer University of Wales funds to Trinity Saint David. 

On current form they will probably use it to further develop their London Campus!   Or possibly new campuses in exotic overseas locations!

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No 20: Adduned Cymru – The Welsh Pledge (2): the other proposed Trusts

Adduned Cymru – The Welsh Pledge (2): the other proposed Trusts 

In Blog No 18 I dealt with the Wales Universities Trust and the Land Trust but I now turn to more contentious issues.   I wish to stress that the objectives of establishing these Trusts are admirable but I do consider that there are a number of serious issues to be raised.

The Heritage Academy

In the statement which has appeared on the University’s website this month it states that this Academy will safeguard the work of the Centre for Advance Welsh and Celtic Studies, the Dictionary of the Welsh Language and also the University of Wales Press.   However, the press release of 10 December 2012 stated that there was an intention to establish two Trusts: the Heritage Academy with responsibility for the Centre and the Dictionary with a separate trust for the University of Wales Press.    I shall deal with these as the two Trust envisaged in December 2012 on which my Freedom of Information questions were based.

The Heritage Academy Trust

The original announcement stated that this Trust would build on the academic interests of the transformed university in addition to other strategic partners to establish a range of academic and cultural programmes to celebrate the dynamic heritage of Wales.  I asked who the other strategic partners could be and was told that in addition to UoW:TSD and the Centre for Advance Welsh and Celtic Studies that other partners could include the National Library, the National Museum, CADW etc and this appeared to be a sensible approach.    The University would appoint the initial Trustees following discussions with UoW:TSD and the Centre. 

The original news release announced that the University would commit an initial £500,000 to the Trust to embark on its work.   When asked, I was told that no Business Plan had been prepared for the operation of this Trust.   £500,000 would be an enormous sum for me as an individual but was this sum realistic for the development of both the Centre and the UoW Dictionary?    I was told that the new Trust, presumably once established, would form an opinion on its financial viability and options for new sources of finance.   That is, establish the Trust and suck it and see!

Amazing!   The University is to establish a new Trust, give it a sum of £500,000 plucked out of the air without any assessment of need and no Business Plan and told to get on with it.   The alarm bells started ringing, “remember Awen Wales Limited”!    In that case the directors had prepared a Business Plan but the University did not honour their commitment of £300,000 in order to ensure its implementation.

The University of Wales Press Trust

This Trust is to safeguard the future of the Press.   The University would transfer an initial sum of £500,000 to the new Trust to allow the Press to develop “a new strategic plan which will entail new business opportunities which respond to the digital demands of on-line and electronic publishing.”  An excellent objective but again there is no assessment of need and no Business Plan has been prepared.  Again I was told that the new Trust would form an opinion on its financial viability and options for new sources of finance!   Again I thought, “remember Awen Wales Limited”!  

The Gregynog Trust

Gregynog Hall was bequeathed to the University of Wales by the Davies sisters from Llandinam in 1960 and is a splendid centre.    With the backing of Lord Davies, it is intended to establish a Trust to safeguard this Welsh and environmental asset which is an excellent objective.    The University will use some of its historic unrestricted endowments to establish an initial fund to support the work of this Trust.   There is no mention of any other funds being allocated to this Trust as was the case in the above two Trusts.   Discussions on the establishment of this Trust are on-going with the Margaret Davies Trust.    The University will appoint the first Trustees in consultation with UoW:TSD and the Margaret Davies Trust.

The financial implications will be discussed in the next Blog.

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No 19: Letter in the Western Mail

Letter in the Western Mail, Friday 22 March 2013

The following letter of mine which was published in the “Western Mail” on Friday 22 March 2013 may be of interest:

 A royal charter? 

SIR – The report “Response raises doubts if press law would work” (March 20) describes the reaction to the proposals for press regulation using a royal charter. 

However, it is not clear what exactly the role of a royal charter will be. Recent experiences have made me question whether there is any purpose whatsoever to a royal charter. 

The University of Wales has a royal charter supported by a number of statutes and the University is supposed to conform to its Charter and Statutes. One of the Statutes states clearly that the University shall regularly consult with its graduates. In reply to a Freedom of Information request the University said there was no consultation before the meeting of the University Council on October 21, 2011 when the Council took the critical decision to dissolve the University and merge with another university. The University had completely ignored the requirements of its Statutes. Consequently this decision was invalid and therefore all actions based on this invalid decision are invalid.

But what happened? Nothing, the university carried on implementing the actions resulting from the invalid decision. And Leighton Andrews, the Education Minister, appears to be taking a couldn’t-care-less attitude. So what is the value of a royal charter if its requirements can be ignored in this way? Anyone interested in more information on this should visit www.universityofwalestruth.com.

HYWEL ROBERTS

Caernarfon

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/letters-to-the-editor/western-mail-letters/2013/03/22/judge-cameron-on-alcohol-decision-91466-33037013/#ixzz2OI5eQC7Y

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No 18: Adduned Cymru – The Welsh Pledge (1)

Adduned Cymru – The Welsh Pledge (1)

On 10 December 2012 the University of Wales issued a News Release announcing

“Multi-million pound investment fund announced by the University of Wales Council through the creation of Adduned Cymru – the Welsh Pledge”.    

Here they showed how they were generously going to create a fund worth £6.8 million for the benefit of Wales and to safeguard the future of four elements of the current responsibilities of the University, the UoW Press, the UoW Dictionary, the Centre for Advance Welsh and Celtic Studies and the Gregynog centre.   To do this they are going to set up a number of new charitable Trusts and recently the Pledge has been published on their website but in a very different format.   I sent a Freedom of Information request for further information in early January and in this case on this issue I received an informative and timely reply in February. 

The Wales Universities Trust

This will be a Trust to safeguard the numerous charitable gifts the University has received over the years since its establishment in 1893.   These gifts were donated, or left in wills, mainly to be invested and the income to be used for specified purposes and the current value of the funds amount to £5.5  million.  To establish such a Trust is an admirable act by the University and I wouldn’t have expected the University to do anything else.    What I found objectionable was the boastful manner in which this was announced, or at least this is how it came over. 

It came out as if the University was generously establishing this Trust from the University’s funds which was, of course, nonsense.   These were not the University’s funds; these were funds which were held in trust by the University to be used for the educational purposes according to the donor’s wishes.  So the bulk of the generous £6.8 million package was this £5.5 million which was not the University’s money in the first place.

In reply to my question whether the “Wales Universities” in the title referred exclusively to the original colleges of the University I was told “yes substantially but not necessarily”.  It was explained that they are still receiving advice on this and a number of other issues and this is understandable.   The University will appoint the first Trustees and there will then be discussions with the donors.    I was informed that no Business Plan has been prepared but, in this case, I believe that this is not a critical issue. 

The Legacy of the Welsh Churches Act

Land that is still held in trust by the University under the Welsh Churches Act will be placed in a new Trust.    These lands were placed in trust for the benefit of the University of Wales and other institutions.  Since 1939/40 the former colleges, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea have received about £2.7 million each through the transfer and sale of some of these lands.   The National Library and the University of Wales have received £1.8 million. 

The University’s responsibility under the Welsh Churches Act can only be changed through an Act of Parliament and therefore this will not be done until the final step in the proposed union between the University of Wales and the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David.   In the meantime the University Council has agreed that it would be appropriate to establish an independent new Trust to administer the assets which fall within the responsibilities under the Welsh Churches Act as an agent on behalf of the University.  This Trust would then take full responsibility once the proposed Act of Parliament has been passed.   The University would appoint the initial Trustees. 

If the union with UoW:TSD, which many of us are firmly against, does not happen then the responsibilities under the Welsh Churches Act would remain with the University of Wales.    

The other proposed new Trusts raise far more questions but more on this in Blog

No. 20

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No 17 Awen Wales Ltd

Awen Wales Ltd

At the end of August 2012 there was a mass resignation of directors from the company Awen Wales Limited which was a private company limited by shares.   In this case there was only one issued £1 share held by the University of Wales.    The home page of the company’s website displays the following statement:

Awen Cymru Ltd. is established as a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Wales to exploit its commercial assets. Awen is the welsh word for inspiration. It is part of the motto of the University of Wales: Goreu Awen Gwirionedd. The Best Inspiration is Truth.

The company was established in January 2010 with four directors, Prof. Robert Marc Clement (the then Vice Chancellor), David Hugh Thomas, Stephen William Owen and John Elfed Jones the prominent businessman and former chairman of Welsh Water.    The last three resigned at the end of August 2012 and they, together with two others associated with the company, complained that they had been let down by the University.  They explained that the Awen Wales Board had initially prepared a sound Business Plan projected to produce a positive and stable cash flow.  They explained that this Business Plan, prepared by experienced businessmen, would require an investment of £300,000 by the University.  The University Council agreed that they would provide the funds as and when they were required.   

Letter of resignation

Their letter of resignation stated that they had started to implement the Business Plan in the belief that the funding would be forthcoming but they found that the University was unwilling to fullfill their promise.   They claim that the University’s failure to provide financial investment resulted in some promising business, which the company had developed from nothing, to be undermined and destroyed.   Employment and consultancy agreements had to be terminated.   They considered that the way they had been treated was unacceptable and a sad reflection on their shareholders, the University of Wales. 

The University claimed that the company made losses of £31,000 and £74,000 in the 2010 and 2011 financial years but it is not possible to check this at the only accounts submitted to Companies House to date are the Dormant Accounts for the first financial year to 31 July 2011.    This means that the company hadn’t traded up to 31 July 2011 so I’m puzzled by the claim that the company had made a loss during the financial years 2010 and 2011.   However, I’m very willing to accept the word of a highly respected business person, John Elfed Jones, and it appears that the University of Wales didn’t make a success of implementing a Business Plan prepared by experienced business people.   The accounts for the year up to 31 July 2012 are due to be submitted in April.

Medwin Hughes appointed director

Prof. Marc Clement resigned as a director on 17 September 2012 and was replaced by his replacement as Vice Chancellor, Prof. Medwin Hughes, leaving him as the sole director of the company.

Other directorships held by Medwin Hughes

As mentioned in Blog 16, Prof. Medin Hughes is also a director of UWTSD Learning Centres Ltd and a number of other limited companies:

The Trinity St David Trust

Welsh American Academy Enterprises Limited

Eclectica Drindod Limited

Trinity University College

Kaleidoscope Project

Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gar

Cwmni Creuddyn Cyfyngedig (now dissolved)

Trinity College Library and Ancillary Service (Carmarthen) Limited

Mentrau Iaith Myrddin Cyfyngedig (now dissolved)

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