Reply from the Welsh Government
I sent my correspondence with the Privy Council, together with the evidence which proved that the University of Wales had totally ignored the requirements of its Statues, to Mr Leighton Andrews, the Education Minister in the Welsh Government. In the covering letter I included a question on what was the purpose of the union between the University of Wales and the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David. I said that I could see the arguments for universities with students to come together in order to create a more sustainable number of students. However, as the University of Wales has no students I asked what the purpose of the proposed union was.
Merger: “potentially but not necessarily also with the University of Wales”
I received a reply from a civil servant on behalf of Mr Andrews. In answer to the question on the purpose of the proposed union reference was made to the HEFCW’s report, Future Structure of Universities in Wales (2011), which recommended “a merger between the University of Wales: Trinity St David and Swansea Metropolitan University, potentially but not necessarily also with the University of Wales”. A statement made by the Minister on 5 December 2012 (sent to me with the FOI request reply) used exactly the same phrase.
I was delighted to learn that the Minister is not, as yet, accepting the merger as inevitable.
The section of the reply dealing with the evidence that the University had not acted according to its Statutes was surprising and worrying. If I’ve translated correctly the answer is as follows:
“Higher Educational establishments are self-governing bodies. The arrangements for how it consults with its graduates are a matter for the University of Wales to decide. This matter does not come under the authority of Welsh Ministers”
I found this reply baffling as I hadn’t complained about the arrangements for consultation. It was not possible to do this as there had been no consultation and therefore there were no arrangements in existence. My argument was very simple:
1. The Statutes state that the University shall regularly consult with its graduates.
2. The evidence shows that the University has not consulted in any way with its graduates
3. Therefore the University has failed to follow the requirements of its Statues.
4. Therefore the decision taken on 21 October 2011 was invalid as are all actions resulting from this invalid decision.
Questions to Mr Leighton Andrews
I’ve sent a reply seeking clarification of this reply. Does the reply imply:
1. That it doesn’t worry Mr Andrews when a University completely ignores the requirements of its Statutes?
2. That Higher Education institutions in Wales can completely ignore the requirements of their constitution and do whatever they like without any intervention by the Minister?
3. That Mr Andrews fundamentally disagrees with the view of the Privy Council which has declared “that the Privy Council would expect any normally functioning Chartered institution to act in accordance with the provisions of its Charter and Statutes”? (see Blog No.3)
I also drew attention to the fact that the University had sent the changes to the Charter and Statutes to the Privy Council last June and that in July the Council had sent these to “the Privy Council’s advisors on HE policy in Wales.” The reply that I’d received gave the impression that whether or not the University acted in accordance with the requirements of the existing Statutes was not important. I therefore asked whether or not there was any purpose in the Advisors providing any comments to the Privy Council on the proposed changes.