Cross-border provision of public services for Wales: further and higher education - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents

4  Conclusion

108. Throughout 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,[198] many of them identified by Professor Merfyn Jones' review.[199] 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

199  Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 16 January 2009