Memorandum submitted by The Higher Education
Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW)
1. We understand the scope of the Committee's
inquiry is to include an examination of:
the extent to which cross-border
public services are currently provided for and accessed by the
the arrangements currently in place
to coordinate cross-border public service provision; and
the funding of cross-border public
2. Our expectations of a pan-UK system of
higher education are, in some respects at least, of relatively
3. Prior to 1992, higher education provision
was run broadly on a UK-wide basis for the older, "traditional"
universities. However, for the "public sector" institutions,
although there was a national framework for some aspects (eg quality
assurance through the Council for National Academic Awards) the
polytechnics and HE colleges were funded and run by each local
authority, with very different approaches, levels of funding,
4. Scotland historically has had a different
approach, with school highers, students going to university younger
and four year degrees. This tended to militate against cross-border
flow even before fee arrangements started to differ.
5. Under the Further and Higher Education
Act 1992, separate funding councils were established for England,
Wales and Scotland, and separate arrangements for Northern Ireland.
6. HEFCW's responsibilities under the 1992
Act are for the administration of funds made available by the
Welsh Assembly Government in support of the provision of education,
the undertaking of research by higher education institutions,
and the provision of prescribed courses of higher education at
further education institutions. The Council also has responsibility
to secure provision for assessing the quality of education provided
in institutions for whose activities it provides financial support.
7. In addition, under the Education Acts
2002 and 2005 HEFCW is responsible for funding and accrediting
providers of initial teacher training for school teachers and
commissioning research to improve the standards of teachers and
8. HEFCW's mission is to promote internationally
excellent higher education in Wales, for the benefit of individuals,
society and the economy, in Wales and more widely. Working with
partners, we deploy funds from the Welsh Assembly Government and
others in order to:
secure higher education learning
and research of the highest quality;
maximise the contribution of higher
education to the culture, society and economy of Wales; and
ensure high quality, accredited teacher
training provision across Wales.
9. In addition to our funding responsibilities,
we provide advice to the Welsh Assembly Government on the funding
needs, aspirations and concerns of the higher education sector
10. At the same time, much policy towards
research, science and innovation remained at UK level, via the
Research Councils and related central government apparatus (now
the Department for Innovation, Universities and SkillsDIUS),
although HEFCW funding (as the largest single source) makes an
essential contribution to the Welsh research infrastructure.
11. Further devolution of HE policy took
place after the Higher Education Act 2004, which set out a new
statutory framework governing the introduction of flexible tuition
fees for higher education provision in England and Wales and resulted
in student support and fee setting powers transferring to the
Welsh Assembly Government.
12. Policy for higher education in Wales
rests, therefore, with the Welsh Assembly Government, whose main
instrument on matters other than student fees and finance is HEFCW.
The main policy framework was set in 2002, after a major review,
with the publication in March of that year of Reaching Higher:
Higher Education and the Learning Country. A strategy for the
higher education sector in Wales.
There have been a number of more recent policy statements also
of significance to higher education, notably the Assembly Government's
and, following the 2007 election, One Wales.
HE IS CURRENTLY
13. Until very recently, there has been
very little sense of the full-time student market making any strong
distinction between Wales and England (after allowing for the
UK-wide pattern of geographical distribution of students at universities
within a certain radius from home). Part time students, in contrast,
have always had a strongly local affiliation.
14. In broad terms, the latest figures for
full-time students (AY 2006/07) show, for undergraduates, and
for all students (including postgraduates), the following distribution
in terms of domicility and country of study. It is evident that
there is very substantial movement of students in both directions
across the Wales-England border.
FULL-TIME UNDERGRADUATE ENROLMENTS AT UK
INSTITUTIONS BY DOMICILE AND COUNTRY OF INSTITUTION 2006-07
|Country of institution ||
|Country of institution
Source: HESA Student Record 2006-07.
FULL-TIME ENROLMENTS AT UK INSTITUTIONS BY DOMICILE AND
COUNTRY OF INSTITUTION 2006-07
|Country of institution
|Country of institution
Source: HESA Student Record 2006-07.
15. Wales has the highest proportion of all UK Administrations
of full-time students from outside the country of institution
(50% of full-time undergraduates at Welsh HEIs come from outside
Wales). The majority of these come from England (80%). In contrast,
over 70% of full-time undergraduates at English, Scottish and
Northern Irish institutions come from the country of institution.
16. With the introduction of variable top up fees in
England in 2006-07, and Wales in 2007-08, it was to be expected
that there might be some disturbance of traditional patterns of
student movement. The fact that the eventual support settlement
for Welsh (and EU) domiciled students studying in Wales differed
from that for students from other domiciles was likely to add
to this disturbance (students who normally live in Wales and study
at a Welsh University are able to receive a non-means tested fee
grant of up to £1,890 a year, which does not have to be repaid).
The underlying accepted applicants trend
17. Insufficient time has elapsed since the variable
fee developments to be fully confident about trends. There is,
however, some early evidence that the market may have shifted,
in that the proportion of full-time undergraduates accepted to
Welsh institutions who are Welsh domiciled has seen an increase
over the last three years, from 48% in 2005-06 to 53% in 2007-08.
There is a corresponding decrease in the proportion of accepted
applicants of English domicile to institutions in Wales.
18. The proportions of accepted applicants that come
from the country of institution do not show the same pattern in
England and Scotland as they do in Wales, with the proportion
of accepted applicants to English institutions who are English
domiciled being 85% in both 2005-06 and 2007-08 and the proportion
of accepted applicants to Scottish institutions who are Scottish
domiciled decreasing from 72% to 70%. In Northern Ireland, the
proportion of accepted applicants who were from Northern Ireland
went from 91% in 2005-06 to 92% in 2007-08, and was 94% in 2006-07.
19. Accepted applicants to Welsh HEIs from Wales were
the only group that applied to institutions in their country of
domicile to show an increase in 2006-07. The overall number of
accepted applicants to Welsh HEIs also increased in 2006-07 compared
to 2005-06. In contrast, the overall number of accepted applicants
to other UK countries decreased for each country in 2006-07. Comparing
2005-06 to 2007-08, accepted applicants to Welsh, English and
Scottish institutions increased, by 4%, 2% and 1% respectively.
ACCEPTED APPLICANTS TO FULL-TIME UNDERGRADUATE COURSES
AT UK INSTITUTIONS BY DOMICILE AND COUNTRY OF INSTITUTION, 2005-06,
|Country of institution
Republic of Ireland
The trend in applications
20. Applications to Wales have also increased, with a
15% increase between 2004-05 and 2006-07. Over the same period,
applications to England increased by 5%. Applications from Welsh
domiciles to Wales increased by 29%, whilst the percentage of
applications from English domiciles to Wales increased to a lesser
extent, by 8%. Applications to England from Welsh domiciles decreased
by 5% whilst those from English domiciles increased, by 6%.
APPLICATIONS TO FULL-TIME UNDERGRADUATE COURSES AT ENGLISH
AND WELSH INSTITUTIONS BY DOMICILE AND COUNTRY OF INSTITUTION,
2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07
21. In partnership with Higher Education Wales, we are
exploring further the question of cross-border application patterns.
It is a complex issue, and one on which it is important to be
clear about the reality of any changing trends.
22. To the extent that real changes are confirmed, cross-border
changes in the fees and student support arrangements may be part
of the explanation.
23. So too, however, may be another factor. It is essential
to the purpose of devolution to take distinctive approaches to
issues, the better to serve local needs. That being so, this distinctiveness
may have consequences when applied to activities that span the
boundary of administrative divisions. It is not impossible that,
if there is indeed a shift in the perception of an England-Wales
market, it may be connected to perceptions of this distinctiveness
in Welsh policy. We return to this point in the discussion of
24. It is worth adding that we have good subject coverage
in Welsh HEIs, the main exception being Veterinary Science, and
so we do not think that application trends are being significantly
driven by differential availability of subjects across the UK.
25. Since 1992, the HE funding councils have recognised
the reality, at some level, of a UK-wide HE market in terms of
domestic, and international, students (and also staff). They have,
therefore, sought to ensure that each other is well informed about
locally distinctive aspects of HE policy, doing so via cross-observer
status on each other's boards, twice-yearly meetings between their
chairs and chief executives, and regular dialogue between officers.
26. They have also recognised that certain functions
are best delivered on a broadly UK-wide basis, either in order
to ensure consistency of delivery standards, or to seek economies
of scale, or both. Examples include teaching quality assurance,
research assessment, professionalisation of teaching, data gathering,
and IT network infrastructure. There is also recognition of a
common market in terms of staff pay and conditions, and values
such as respect for academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
These in turn are rooted in a deep-seated appreciation that higher
education in the UK as a whole operates in a tough international
competitive environment for students, staff, research standing,
and so on. All the funding bodies keep these considerations firmly
in mind, as well as bending their energies to the policy ambitions
of their local territories.
27. To this end, funding council officers participate
in standing groups established by themselves, or by the sector,
across the UK. Examples of such pan-UK activities include:
Association of Heads of University Administration
British Universities' Finance Directors Group (BUFDG)
Estate Management Statistics & Space Management Groups
Equality Challenge Unit
Funders Forum (DIUS)
HE and Public Engagement Steering Group
Higher Education and Research Opportunities in the UK
Higher Education Academy
Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
High Level Policy Forum (Europe Unit)
Joint Information Systems Committee
Leadership Foundation for Higher Education
Measuring and Recording Student Achievement (Burgess Group)
Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)
Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008 Steering Group
Research Councils (individual Concordat meetings)
SKILL (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities)
Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA) Steering Group
Sustainability Integration (SIGnet) Group
Teaching Quality Information Groups
UK Higher Education Performance Indicators Steering Committee
UK Healthcare Education Advisory Committee
UKERNA (JANET network)
28. In addition, the Training and Development Agency
(TDA) for Schools in England is contracted by the Welsh Assembly
Government to promote teaching as a career in Wales. This enables
major publicity media campaigns to cover Wales, in both the English
and Welsh mediums. The TDA has appointed a Teacher Adviser, Wales
to work with providers of Initial Teacher Training, and other
partners, to ensure a Welsh dimension to the TDA's recruitment
work in Wales.
29. We also engage from time to time in studies that
specifically address cross-border issues. For example, in 2003
a question arose about the provision of HE in the Marches. HEFCE
invited HEFCW to join in a review of provision in Herefordshire,
Powys and Shropshire, resulting in a report published by HEFCE
30. Informal dialogue also takes place between the English
and Welsh funding councils about other possibilities, as they
arise from time to time, concerning potential cross-border collaborative
(and sometimes also competitive) activity between institutions.
The two councils are clear that, where a good case exists according
to each council's criteria and policy environment, there should
be no impediment to joint funding. Each council would be able
to fund only that part of the activity that fell within its jurisdiction,
but it ought to be possible to fit together an English-funded
element with a Welsh-funded element, to make a whole that is greater
than the sum of the parts.
31. Where activities, as illustrated above, are organised
on a joint basis across the funding councils, or indeed across
a wider set of partners, funding is managed jointly according
to negotiated shares. For purposes of good governance and accountability,
it is usually agreed that one council (typically HEFCE) will act
as lead on behalf of the others, with the others maintaining close
interest in developments via some form of funders group.
32. There is well established custom and practice in
these matters, so that usually the main focus of discussion is
about the nature of the activity and the deliverables sought,
rather than about the partition of funding or the governance arrangements.
33. There is another dimension of funding, however, that
merits some mention. We refer here to the consequence of devolution
that decisions about funding for higher education, be it for institutions
or for student support, are now made according to local criteria
in the four territories of the UK. This necessary consequence
of devolution opens up the possibility of (potentially significant)
divergence, not only in the specific priorities to be attached
to particular aspects of HE, but also in the overall levels of
funding available in the four territories. Given our earlier discussion
of possible developments in the behaviour of the student market,
it is easy to see that perceptions of relative levels of funding,
with implications for such things as facilities, quality of buildings,
attractiveness to staff (and hence also to students), and so on,
could over time have profound consequences. It follows that, were
such divergences to become significant, the picture we have presented
above would change.
34. This paper has concentrated on cross-border services
as related to students. It is worth adding, though, that there
continues to be a strong sense of a UK-wide community, but with
a strong local focus as well, over research, knowledge exchange,
and other "third mission" activity.
35. Concordats between the Welsh Assembly Government
and each of the Research Councils provide for annual meetings
to discuss strategies and priorities, and to consider the performance
of Welsh HE in winning funding. There is a well-established pattern
of Wales winning a lower share (typically about 3.5%) of research
council income than might be expected from its relative scale.
HEFCW works with the Research Councils to try to address this
issue by, for example bringing them into Wales to address meetings
of senior university research leaders and managers and by seeking
to foster better research performance within the sector.
36. HEFCW's underlying strategy for research, with a
strong emphasis on reconfiguration and collaboration, is also
leading to significant new research groupings, with greater mass
and scope, with the aim of increasing competitiveness. Notable
steps in this respect include the merger of Cardiff University
and the University of Wales College of Medicine, the Aberystwyth-Bangor
Research and Enterprise Partnership, the Wales Institute for Cognitive
Neuroscience, the Wales Institute of Mathematical and Computational
Sciences, the Low Carbon Research Institute, and the Wales Institute
of Social and Economic Data and Methods.
37. In addition, we work closely with the other funding
councils over major research issues, such as the joint running
of the RAE and the planning of the Research Excellence Framework.
The Assembly Government and HEFCW also participate actively in
the DIUS-led UK-wide research Funders Forum, which serves to maintain
a UK-wide perspective on overall levels of funding, CSR submissions,
full economic costing, research careers, and many other matters.
38. Reference to DIUS leads to a final observation about
research. The establishment of this new department sharpens considerably,
in a welcome way, the focus on innovation across the entire UK,
and also the attention given to universities within government
in England. However, there is likely, in the nature of an organisational
development of this kind, to be an inclination to seek to pull
more closely together the UK-wide dimensions of DIUS's work (principally
through the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board)
and the England-only dimensions (principally, for this discussion,
HEFCE). This would be understandable, but from the perspective
of devolved parts of the UK it does carry a potential risk. This
is that the desire for greater strategic coherence might take
insufficient account of the diversity of agendas across the UK,
and so result in too "England-oriented" a focus for
the "UK-facing" aspects of the work of DIUS. This is
a risk which will require sensitive handling by all parties. In
this regard, the reassertion of the value of the dual support
system in the March 2008 DIUS White Paper, Innovation Nation,
is welcome, with its reference to how the two arms of the system
"combine to drive excellence in the research base with flexibility
to respond to changes and opportunities" (para 5.13). What
is important, from a devolved perspective, is to maintain the
UK-wide focus of the Research Council arm.
39. As devolution of government across the UK leads to
increasingly divergent policy positions, the higher education
funding councils play challenging roles in seeking to marry their
local HE provision into wider local policy ambitions while also
maintaining sufficient commonality and competitive strength to
support reasonable movement of students and staff into and across
what remains a recognisably UK HE system. Finding a way to maintain
that balance, in the face of existing and potential patterns of
student and staff mobility, will be critical to the future of
higher education in Wales, and to the ambitions of the Welsh Assembly
20 March 2008
The Assembly's Science Policy 2006: Back
Options for higher education in Herefordshire, Powys and Shropshire,
available at: Back