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

Memorandum submitted by Cardiff University


  Cardiff University is a major international university. With its research-led mission, membership of the Russell Group, breadth and depth in learning and teaching, and capacity for wealth creation, it occupies a unique place within the diverse provision of higher education in Wales.

  Its vision is to be a world-leading university and its mission is to pursue research, learning and teaching of international distinction and impact. All of the University's activities are directed to achieving the highest international standards in research, learning and teaching, pursued in a rich and varied research-led environment where all staff and students can achieve their full potential to the benefit of the wider community and society as a whole. The University aims to demonstrate the tangible benefits that an internationally recognised, research-intensive university brings to Wales and beyond and to make a significant and sustainable contribution to health, economy, education and culture for the needs and good of societies throughout the world.


  In terms of higher education it is impossible to think in a Wales only context. Higher education is a global business. Staff and students are increasingly mobile and discerning and will follow quality and excellence wherever it is to be found.

  In addition to the 2,500 (approximately) international students from over 80 countries outside the EU, Cardiff University also recruits a significant number of students from across the border in England. (Conversely a significant number of Welsh students travel to English HEIs). These students bring financial benefits to the Welsh economy and friendships and networks can bear fruit in future years for the local economy in business partnerships and alumni suggesting or locating businesses in Wales or choosing to trade with Welsh partners.

  However, the global nature of higher education means that Cardiff University is in direct competition with other higher education institutions from across the UK and beyond, in terms of the recruitment of high quality staff and students. Thus for Welsh higher education institutions (HEIs) to be successful players in this global market they must be aware of and responsive to the challenges it presents and guard against becoming an insular sector looking only at challenges within Wales.

  Cardiff University has extensive research links with high quality institutions across the globe, including with other Russell Group institutions in England, building expertise and knowledge in collaborative initiatives and allowing students and staff access to exchange programmes. There is a great deal of potential for highly productive collaborations between Cardiff and English HEIs but there are challenges in securing funding for such initiatives from the respective Funding Councils. There are often common interests and objectives across the UK and, as such, it would be helpful if the various administrations could consult and consider a common way forward. For example, the Research Assessment Exercise is a good example of where the UK HE sector needs to present itself as one and has so far done so.

  The University also provides a range of continuing education and professional development opportunities, and in particular, plays a leading role in the provision of continuing professional development for health and social care professionals to meet the medical, social and economic needs of Wales, the UK and beyond. In terms of the healthcare professions, provision crosses the border in many instances, and there is potential for difficulty here in terms of funding regimes.


  The global nature of higher education highlights some funding issues which could impact negatively on cross-border provision and collaboration. The UK government invests only 0.8% of GDP on HE compared to the OECD and EU average of 1.1%. Some EU countries have prioritised investment in HE to advance the development of their knowledge economies in the face of globalisation and Wales and the UK should aspire to the same goal. The European Commission has highlighted the role of HE in meeting the Lisbon targets for growth and jobs and has proposed a specific target of total private and public investment in HE of 2% of GDP.

  The Welsh Assembly Government provides funding via the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) for core funding to cover learning, teaching and research. However, levels of overall public investment in HE in Wales currently lags well behind England and Scotland, not to mention key international competitors. The last analysis by HEFCW estimated a £41 million funding gap, based on 2004-05 data, between the HE sectors of Wales and England. We understand that HEFCW has updated this estimate for the Assembly, but we have not had sight of this report.

  HEIs in Wales are committed to helping Wales succeed in meeting the challenges of globalisation but, without a level playing field with England and Scotland, Welsh HEIs will lag behind their counterparts in the rest of the UK in contributing to the opportunities presented by globalisation.

  The Assembly sets out ambitious goals and targets for the HE sector and it is questionable whether these can be met within current resources. In order to secure the sustainable growth and development essential to support Wales' needs, appropriate and sufficient resources must be made available to secure a vibrant and competitive HE sector able to compete with the very best in the UK and beyond.

  The sector in Wales is working with Higher Education Wales (HEW) to make a case for levels of funding that are commensurate with the public value that can be added by the sector. However, any efforts by the Committee to draw key decision makers' attention to this increasing deficiency in core university funding in Wales would be most welcome.


  The divergence of the fee regimes across the UK also has the potential to adversely affect cross-border provision of higher education. Whilst variable fees are in operation in both Wales and England, Welsh-domiciled students studying in Wales are entitled to an annual grant which considerably reduces the amount payable by the student. English-domiciled students are not entitled to such grants whether studying in England or Wales (even though other EU students are). It is likely that this will encourage more Welsh-domiciled students to study in Wales and also possible that there could be a negative impact on the number of English students applying to Welsh HEIs. English applicants may find the idea of paying more than their Welsh and EU counterparts for the same courses somewhat off-putting. In addition there have been changes to the maintenance grant threshold in England leading to a greater rate of eligibility for English students.

  Tuition fees will be reviewed in England in 2009 with the distinct possibility of the cap being raised allowing English HEIs to charge higher fees. The Welsh Assembly Government has stated that it will maintain existing fee levels up to and including 2009-10. Further divergence between the funding regimes of the countries has the potential to impact adversely on the cross-border flows of students as well as on the already significant funding gap between Wales and England.

  It is also worth noting that the recent reorganisation of Westminster Departments has resulted in the creation of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. This Department has responsibility for both the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Research Councils. Thus its remit covers both England, in respect of HEFCE and the UK, in respect of the Research Councils. This is something that the Welsh sector will need to remain aware of to ensure no detrimental virement of funds between these two remits.


  Higher education is increasingly a global business and Cardiff University attracts students both from across the border in England as well as from across the globe. Cardiff's Russell Group status puts it in direct competition with English Russell Group institutions such as the University of Bristol and the University of Birmingham which are geographically quite close. However, as well as competition for staff and students there are also examples of collaboration and potential for further productive collaborations. The continued divergence of higher education policy, however, does present challenges. There are now differences in funding policies, fee regimes and governmental priorities and these all have the potential to have a negative impact on the cross-border aspect of higher education provision.

March 2008

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