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

Memorandum submitted by Professor Dylan Jones, Head of School of Psychology, Cardiff University


  This response has been divided according to the different functions and interests that the School of Psychology represents in the areas of Higher Education and Health. As one of only a handful of 5* rated (RAE2001) Schools within the Higher Education sector we face common challenges alongside our comparator Schools and Institutions. As part of a Russell Group University the School is acutely sensitive to disparities between the regions of the UK. As a School of Psychology, moreover, we additionally face a range of challenges in the health and social care arenas both in our capacity as a facility for groundbreaking medical and social research and as providers of professional training. A major issue of note is the difference between the Higher Education Funding Councils in England and Wales, both in terms of the funding for undergraduate teaching and quality research funding. As an example, Liverpool University and Cardiff University have roughly the same amount of money for undergraduate teaching yet Liverpool has only 14,000 undergraduates against 20,000 at Cardiff University.


  The School has an intake of approximately 200 undergraduate students each year and all of our courses are accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). Admissions criteria are 3 As at A-Level and the School has additional requirements for GCSE achievement. The uncertainty about top-up fee policy, and potential funding disparities in Wales relative to other UK sectors, is a major concern and this uncertainty is likely to be a deterrent to the highest quality applicants from outside Wales.


  The School is fortunate to get around half of our PhD students progressing from the undergraduate programmes within the School, and is duly sensitive to any effects that changes to undergraduate population or funding may mean for the students at every level in the School. Otherwise, postgraduate research numbers are very strong in the School, with PhD students funded through a variety of studentships from the Research Councils, as well as by multiple industrial partners, including Eli Lilly, EADS, General Dynamics, GlaxoSmithKline and QinetiQ.


  Our postgraduate teaching is recognised internationally as professional training and entitles graduates to become Chartered Members of the BPS and to practise as Psychologists in the UK.

3.1  Doctorate in Educational Psychology

  The Doctorate run by Cardiff University is currently one of sixteen in the UK and the only one in Wales. As a condition of funding (provided to all students by the Welsh Local Government Association and Welsh Assesmbly Government) graduates are expected to seek employment as educational psychologists with local authorities in Wales. Those who fail to do so may be required to pay back all or some of the central funding provided for them. The programme currently runs at a shortfall to the School of some £2,000 per student per year, and top-up fees from the students will, in all probability, need to be introduced in order to provide the balance. This may well increase the disparity between programmes in England and Wales (where size of scheme is likely to offset high course costs), and may therefore have an adverse affect on applications in the future. There are also implications for accessibility that run counter to the efforts of the School and University to widen access to all programmes. In addition, Wales has recently been excluded, against its wishes, from a new clearing house application system brought into force by the Local Government Employers (LGE) within England. Candidates for places on the Cardiff programme now apply directly to Cardiff University. As this new system has only run for one year, it is too soon to say whether this will have a detrimental impact on applications but it is not conducive to a sense of collective endeavour across the UK previously enjoyed in this sector. There is currently some cross-border collaboration in providing placements for students on this programme, but the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) has suggested a regional basis for a new workforce planning system which may increase the separation between the counties LEAs on both sides of the border. We have concerns that this will have a negative impact on recruitment and training and the consequent retention of qualified staff in this area.

3.2  Doctorate in Clinical Psychology

  The Doctoral programme runs as a joint venture between Cardiff University and Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust and is one of two programmes within Wales. There are often over 12 applications for each of the 10 places on the programme (recently reduced from 12 places) and the applicants typically have relevant practical experience as well as Masters degrees, if not PhDs. The applicants to this scheme are from across the UK and although the graduates generally choose to work within Wales, there is no element of compulsion to do so. There is strong evidence that a large number of undergraduates at Cardiff University wish to continue their study on courses such as the Doctorate and given the calibre of the undergraduate students at the School, it is unfortunate that due to the limited funded places on the Doctorate scheme we cannot retain more of them. There are also wide-ranging implications for the recruitment and training of Clinical Psychologists across the UK following the Layard Report (The Depression Report: A New Deal for Depression and Anxiety Disorders) which recommends implementation of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines. At present we know of no plans for increased recruitment into Clinical Psychology training, or additional non-psychologist entry into cognitive behaviour therapy training, in Wales to match that likely to occur in England. This is of significant concern as a strong link has been established between areas of economic deprivation and the need for mental health services. It should be noted that the Department for Work and Pensions still operates on a UK-wide level and their research and recommendations do have a significant impact on the Health professions, which are increasingly separate for England and Wales. This may lead to a disparity in research capability and in patient care.


  Although we welcome the competitions held by the Research Councils and major charities that are open to all UK-based Higher Education Institutions, Wales seems to be at a disadvantage in terms of focused Research Centres from RCUK or major charitable foundations; despite equivalent success in all other areas of competitive research funding, there are no HEI-based research centres funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), or The Wellcome Trust. This is clearly not due to the quality of research at Universities in Wales and seems to be a hereditary imbalance that merits scrutiny. The combined funding of health research through the MRC and the England-only National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is also a cause for concern in the significant area of medical research. At present, funds that are derived from NIHR are not available to HEIs in Wales, and at present there is no equivalent or matching funding stream in the Welsh system. Not only does this mean welsh HEIs cannot collaborate on NIHR-funded projects, but there is also a significant funding gap in the medical research arena in Wales.

  The Reconfiguration and Collaboration Fund has been successful in promoting research in Wales, and we would welcome the extension of this Fund to include collaboration across the border in key strategic areas where critical mass could be achieved to bring material benefit (for example, the emerging Cardiff and Bristol collaboration in the area of mental health and neuroscience).


  5.1  QR and QT funding to be comparable in Wales to that in England.

  5.2  Certainty of future fee levels and structures at the undergraduate level to be sought.

  5.3  Implementation of the Layard Report and the consequent provision for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, directed particularly to areas of economic deprivation.

  5.4  Doctorate in Educational Psychology to be funded at the true cost centrally.

  5.5  Exploration to be undertaken into the benefit of cross-border collaboration in all areas of professional training.

  5.6  Research Councils UK to be encouraged to establish Research Centres in Wales.

  5.7  The Reconfiguration and Collaboration Fund to be extended to cross-border projects with HEFCW and HEFCE support.

  5.8  Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research (OSCHR) to continue to work with officials from DH, DIUS and the devolved administrations to set the Government's health research strategy, taking into account the advice, priorities and needs set out by NIHR and its equivalents in the devolved countries, MRC and the NHS.

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