No.3: University of Wales and The Privy Council

The Privy Council

The Privy Council is the body which considers and approves the award of the Royal Charter status on an institution such as a university, a professional body etc.    Institutions wishing to achieve chartered status must make an application and provide the required evidence to support the application.   An institution like the University of Wales has an approved Charter together with Statutes which support the charter.  These then form the constitution by which the institution must be run.     If an institution wishes to make changes to the Charter and Statutes it must submit these to the Privy Council for approval.   Only the Privy Council has the authority to approve any changes to the Charter and Statutes.

Correspondence with the Privy Council

29 November 2011

I first wrote to the Privy Council in November 2011 asking a series of questions mainly regarding the authority of the University Council to take the momentous decision taken at the meeting on 21 October 2011 and also, in view of the confusing statements coming out of the University, asking whether or not the University still existed. 

I received a detailed and very helpful reply from the Senior Clerk to the Council with responsibility for higher education matters, Mr Christopher Berry.   In conclusion he wrote “I can conclude, however, that the Charter of the University of Wales is still extant – it has not been surrendered in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.”   This was a great relief!

I was also informed that the Secretary of State was the member of the Privy Council with responsibility for providing recommendations on all Privy Council business concerning Wales but, as Higher Education was a devolved matter, the recommendations would be based on policy advice given by the Welsh Government.

18 November 2012

I wrote again quoting Clause II of the Charter stating that the Graduates were Members of the University and Clause 11 of the Statutes stating the requirement for the University to regularly consult with its Graduates.    I enquired as to whether the University would have to provide evidence of consultation before the Council could approve any changes.  I received an acknowledgement with a promise of a full reply.

10 December 2012

On 6 December I received the long-awaited answer to my Freedom of Information request on consultation which is quoted in Blog No. 2.    On 10 December I sent this evidence to the Privy Council together with my interpretation and comments.   I said that the evidence showed clearly that the University had not complied with the requirements of its Statutes and therefore the decision taken by the University Council on 21 October 2011 was invalid. 

On 18 December 2012 I again received a full and helpful reply from Mr Berry which contained the following sentence:

In response to these questions I can confirm that the Privy Council would expect any normally functioning Chartered institution to act in accordance with the provisions of its Charter and Statutes.” 

He informed me that the information sent had been noted.

In view of the failure of the University to conform to the requirements of its Statutes one may ask whether the University of Wales, under its current management, can be considered to be a “normally functioning Chartered institution”. 

Mr Berry also informed me that since his last letter that “the First Minister of Wales has taken over responsibility for all Welsh Privy Council matters such as this (that said, the Secretary of State still has some residual powers in yet to be devolved areas).”

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