University of Wales to stop validating other degrees

Prof Medwin Hughes, newly-appointed vice-chancellor of the university, explains the decision to BBC Wales education correspondent Ciaran Jenkins

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The University of Wales is to stop validating courses at all other institutions in the UK and abroad.

BBC Wales uncovered concerns over several centres overseas which ran courses leading to the university's degrees.

The Welsh government said it brought Wales "into disrepute" and a watchdog criticised "significant failings".

New vice-chancellor Prof Medwin Hughes says it will now award degrees only for courses it designs and fully controls.

He said the decision reflected changes in higher education in Wales, including the university's merger with Swansea Metropolitan and Trinity Saint David.

Prof Hughes said the university would cease to be an accrediting body for other universities in Wales, and that it would be closing validated programmes at centres in the UK and overseas.

He said: "We believe the time is right for us to adopt a new academic strategy and only award University of Wales degrees to students on courses designed and fully controlled by the University of Wales.


Ciaran Jenkins, BBC Wales education correspondent

From next September the University of Wales will become just two small universities in the south west - Swansea Metropolitan University and Trinity Saint David.

A national institution since 1893 will become quite a small local institution.

This is significant because the University of Wales is at present the second largest university in the UK, with 70,000 students studying its courses in 130 colleges around the world. It is going to be difficult for it to justify itself as a university for the whole of Wales.

The degree validation programme was a massive money-spinner for the university, accounting for something like 60-65% of income.

This time last year BBC Wales lifted the lid on some of its partners when we found a Malaysian pop star with two bogus degrees who was running one a partner college in Kuala Lumpur and another one in Thailand operating illegally.

Since then there have been a series of reviews which have not been particularly favourable to the university.

Suddenly, two days before a new BBC Wales investigation - Week In Week Out at 20:30 BST on BBC One Wales on Wednesday - which will reveal fresh and very serious allegations about goings-on inside a University of Wales partner college, that all comes to an end - with the exception of overseas courses that they have total control over.

The question is: why didn't they have total control over the courses in the past?

"We have a duty of care to all students on existing programmes and will honour our current commitments to them."

The vice-chancellor added: "Our own international collaboration will now be based solely on courses designed and fully controlled by the University of Wales, embedded in our faculties and led by our own academic staff.

"We remain committed to a global role and believe it can serve Wales well."

The decision came as a a shock to institutions bearing the university's name.

University of Wales Newport vice-chancellor Dr Peter Noyes only learned of the news on Monday afternoon.

He said: "It is with great regret that we were informed by the University of Wales of its plan shortly before they called their press conference.

"It is worth noting that none of the University of Wales' recent problems have been cause by the excellent Welsh universities that it offers awards through and yet today it has announced plans to effectively terminate our relationship without consultation or discussion.

"This is of deep regret to me and it now seems inappropriate for the University of Wales to hold the title that it does."

He added that Newport would consider using its powers to award its own degrees as a way to "reassure our students that this announcement will not affect their studies in any way".

Colleges affected by the introduction of the new University of Wales strategy will be given a notice period of one year before the changes come into effect at the start of the 2012 academic year.

Fresh revelations concerning University of Wales partner colleges will be broadcast in a special BBC Wales investigation on Wednesday.

In June, Education Minister Leighton Andrews said the University of Wales had brought the nation "into disrepute" over its links with overseas institutions.

A review by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) said it had "confidence" in the university but identified weaknesses in its external validation processes.

A BBC Wales investigation had previously found the university's overseas links included one run by a Malaysian pop star with bogus degrees and a college in Bangkok said to be operating illegally.

The QAA's report found the university had not run proper checks while setting up partnerships with the colleges in question - a process known as validation.

It said the university "missed the opportunity to be circumspect" about Fazley Yaakob, a Malaysian pop star who claimed to have a doctorate in business administration.

Its approval of a fashion college in Thailand was judged "inadequate" and "flawed".

A special edition of Week in Week Out will be on BBC One Wales at 20:30 BST on Wednesday 5 October.

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