all the strands of our cross-border inquiry, our evidence has
suggested that the decision-making process on each side of the
border needs to be more coordinated, more coherent and more transparent.
Democratic devolution means that decisions should be taken in
England and Wales in the best interests of the local population.
This does not mean, however, that governments on either side
of the border should close their eyes to the consequences of their
decisions on the population of the UK as a whole, particularly
those living in close proximity to the border itself. We have
found clear evidence that a better interface between government
departments and the Welsh Assembly Government would be to the
benefit of students and education staff both in Wales and in England.
109. The Welsh
Assembly Government has chosen to invest less in higher education
than the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has
in England and the consequences of this are increasingly evident
in competition for students, the strength of the institutions
and capacity for research. We note the Minister's willingness
to address these issues,
many of them identified by Professor Merfyn Jones' review.
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills appears
to be pressing ahead with strategic changes to higher education
policy, with little regard for the consequences for the devolved
nations, and little consultation. The role of the Wales Office
is to be the voice of Wales in Westminster, but with regard to
the development of higher education policy it has failed to make
the UK Government factor Wales into its planning. Equally, neither
the Welsh Assembly Government nor HEFCW appear to recognise the
importance of the Wales Office in raising Welsh higher education
policy and funding issues at the UK level.
110. In addition,
the approach of the research councils is blind to the social and
regeneration consequences of their decisions. Unless there is
a more active acknowledgement of Wales by the UK Government, better
coordination with the Welsh Assembly Government and an increased
awareness within the funding bodies of the UK dimensions of their
decisions, all of these factors add up to a gloomy prospect for
Welsh higher education.
198 Statement by the Welsh Assembly Government, 25
November 2008, Higher Education, Jane Hutt, Minister for Children,
Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills. Back