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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