Memorandum submitted by Professor Michael
Scott, Principal, the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education
The North East Wales Institute of Higher Education
(NEWI) is an expanding Higher Education Institution (HEI) with
approaching 8,000 students, that is in the final stages of its
application for taught degree awarding powers and university title.
NEWI has been a full member of the University of Wales since 2004
and is based in Wrexham. With that comes an essentially Welsh
ethos. The Institute has close collaborative links with HEIs and
Further Education Colleges (FECs) and with businesses in both
Wales and England. Given its location less than ten miles from
the border with England, NEWI is uniquely qualified to comment
on cross-border provision of public services following devolution,
informed by both consultancy work and practical experience.
NEWI welcomes the call for evidence and provides
below, from its unique perspective, a report on the cross-border
further and higher education;
health and social care; and
The Senior Executive at NEWI would be supportive
of any further work on cross-border issues, both by entering into
debate with the Committee and by taking forward research into
The perspective of NEWI, as the HEI in Wales
closest to the border, is of particular relevance. NEWI, in common
with other Welsh HEIs, collaborates with many HEIs in other regions
of the UK, in a variety of ways. Institutions appoint external
examiners, and honorary research and teaching staff from HEIs
from any area of the UK. There is cross-border working in staff
development, such as a senior management developmental activity
that NEWI has organized with Keele University, Staffordshire.
There is cross-border collaboration on research
and development projects. The Research Councils and the Technology
Strategy Board have a UK wide brief and invite collaborative proposals
from multiple partners. NEWI has collaborated with English institutions
in several bids for research funding and has benefited from the
availability of cross border expertise in conducting such research.
Our partners in current or recent collaborative research include
the University of Bath, the University of Durham, University College
London, and Surrey University. Through the OpTIC (Opto-electronics
Technology and Incubation Centre) Technium in St Asaph, NEWI collaborates
with Cambridge University and Cranfield University. Such partnerships
enable complementary knowledge and facilities to be brought together
in solving complex research problems. The outcome from such research
benefits the research community generally as well as industry
and students in Wales.
Collaborative arrangements for educational provision
in further and higher education also cross the border. NEWI collaborates
with a number of English FECs, for example, in validating Foundation
Degree programmes and other sub-degree awards at Shrewsbury College
of Arts and Technology and developing a partnership with Wirral
Metropolitan College. NEWI works also with Reaseheath College
by out-reach delivery of HE programmes at the college's premises,
and is pleased to provide staff development for academic staff
at Reaseheath a Nantwich based college which was awarded the title
of "Most Outstanding Commitment to Education and Training"
in 2007 in respect of its horticulture provision. NEWI has been
exploring the possibility of developing provision in animal health
in collaboration with the University of Liverpool, which has one
of its Veterinary Science campuses less than 20 miles from NEWI.
Increasingly NEWI's cross-border educational
collaboration includes not only HE or FE institutions, but also
corporate training organizations and companies (eg SACCS Limited,
Shrewsbury; Scalchemy Training and Development Ltd, Worcester).
There are a number of cross-border issues around
educational provision. Normally, student places funded by the
Higher Education Funding Council for Wales cannot be taken up
by Welsh institutions delivering or validating programmes at partner
institutions in England. For institutions near the Welsh-English
border this can be a significant issue. There may be a market
for a Welsh institution's programmes in a neighbouring district
of England, and a partner English institution wishing to collaborate
on provision; however, the current HE funding regime does not
support such delivery. The demand for the provision remains unmet,
and a market opportunity is lost for both institutions.
There is concern about reports that English
HE institutions have been permitted to buy facilities in Wales
and to run courses from them, such as the University of Central
Lancashire purchasing Tyn Dwr Hall at Llangollen. There is a perception
that a Welsh institution would not be permitted to purchase facilities
in England in order to grow its academic base; if this is the
case, Welsh HEIs are disadvantaged by unfair competition and restrictions.
The differential HE fees regime between Wales
and England means that English students studying qualifications
validated by Welsh HEIs at FECs in England have a financial disincentive
compared to their Welsh counterparts to proceed to top up degree
studies at the partner Welsh HEI. Care is needed in the implementation
of policies intended to benefit Welsh students, that students
studying close to the border are not inadvertently disadvantaged.
Welsh students may find that the closest higher education provision
in their subject of choice is over the border in England, but
that this choice of institution means that they are subsequently
prevented from practising professionally in Wales because of curricula
and policy differences.
NEWI is aware that data appear to show a "funding
gap" between Welsh HEIs and English or Scottish HEIs. Given
that all HEIs are in competition, the comparatively lower level
of funding given to Welsh HEIs disadvantages them in the market
place. Welsh institutions are able to provide fewer resources
per student, possibly resulting in equipment and buildings being
of a lower standard. Press releases indicate that there have been
substantial investments in individual English HEIs and FECs in
recent years far in excess of sums invested in any individual
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
provides funding to support collaboration and reconfiguration
amongst Welsh institutions. Whilst such a fund is welcomed, it
is generally less valuable to those institutions close to the
border with England, for which collaboration would be more appropriate
with English institutions because of geographical proximity. There
are 12 English HEIs which are geographically closer to NEWI than
the nearest Welsh HEI. Chester University, for example, is approximately
13 miles from NEWI whereas the nearest Welsh HEI (Bangor University)
is approximately 72 miles away. NEWI believes that support for
cross-border collaboration would be beneficial to Welsh HEIs and
to the Welsh people.
It appears that there are currently no Welsh-based
representatives on the Councils of several of the Research Councils
including MRC, NERC, AHRC or BBRSC and so there may be an issue
concerning the lack of a Welsh voice steering the work of these
organizations which fund a large proportion of the fundamental
research undertaken in the UK. This may be reflected in concern
that Welsh HEIs receive significantly less from the Research Councils
per FTE academic staff member than English HEIs, with consequent
implications for the outcome of the last Research Assessment Exercise
(2001) and external, including international, perceptions of the
quality of higher education in Wales.
It is the case that there is excellent higher
education in Wales. The appointment of Welsh graduates to senior
posts on either side of the border can only enhance the reputation
of Wales. Similarly, if Wales is to be fully recognised for its
excellence in higher education, Welsh HEIs need to be supported
in offering programmes and undertaking research that can attract
students, employers and research partners that are both within
and outwith of Wales. Where engagement with HE in Wales has a
positive impact on a person's career, or in the case of consultancy
and research, the competitiveness of a business or enterprise,
then Wales naturally creates a network of ambassadors who testify
to the high quality service they received. The success of Scotland
in creating a "quality brand" in HE demonstrates the
effectiveness and importance of ensuring that HE is recognised
beyond regional, national, European and international borders.
Despite its proximity to the border NEWI is
firmly rooted in Wales. One advantage of this is the comparatively
easy access it has to ministers and civil servants at the Assembly
Government. The Institute believes this relationship sometimes
allows NEWI's views to be reflected in the policies and strategies
emanating from the Assembly Government. An example of this is
the Wales Spatial Plan which recognises the geographical influences
on North East Wales and advocates further collaboration across
the border while at the same time expanding the role of Wrexham
(and NEWI) as a major centre within North East Wales.
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