Scrap University of Wales call by vice-chancellors

University of Wales The University of Wales has not commented on the scam allegations

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Five universities want the University of Wales (UoW) title scrapped because they are appalled by claims about the validation of its qualifications.

Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan and Swansea vice-chancellors say they will not accept it in its current form.

BBC Wales has exposed a scam in which overseas students are offered help to cheat their way to UoW-validated degrees and visas.

The university said it would not compromise quality and standards.

In a statement, the Welsh government said Education Minister Leighton Andrews was "disturbed by the continuing adverse publicity attached to the University of Wales".

In their statement, the vice-chancellors - who are known as the St David's Day Group - say they are "appalled by the latest revelations about certain institutions whose qualifications are validated by the University of Wales.

"This in no way reflects the excellent standard of education provided by universities in Wales.

Analysis by Ciaran Jenkins, BBC Wales education correspondent

This is enormously significant.

What we're witnessing is perhaps the final nail in the coffin of the University of Wales - and what that means for the people of Wales is perhaps the loss of a national institution.

Remember, this has been the university for the people of Wales since 1893.

And the fact that the five biggest universities in Wales have ganged up on the university in this way is tremendously significant.

These universities were part of the University of Wales for more than 100 years.

They've all left in the last five years, with the exception of Glamorgan.

Now they're saying the whole of the University of Wales should effectively be disbanded in light of what we have revealed today and over the past 12 months.

"The changes announced this week by the University of Wales represent a fundamental change to the university's mission and the institution now needs a new title which reflects this considerably changed role - we are no longer able to accept it as the University of Wales.

"These latest revelations have brought the once proud history of the University of Wales to a sad conclusion - it is clearly no longer the institution of which four of us we were once proud to be members."

University of Wales vice-chancellor Prof Medwin Hughes said the institution was going through "transformational change".

"The transformed university will be built upon the highest standards of governance and will have an uncompromising regards towards quality and standards," he said.

Angela Burns, Welsh Conservative education spokesperson, said a once respected international brand had been "discredited".

'Under threat'

"To protect the reputation of and pride in Wales' higher education sector, the University of Wales can no longer claim to represent the universities of Wales and needs a fresh brand to draw a line under its now tarnished history," she said.

Aled Roberts, Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, said there needed to be clear leadership and direction from the University of Wales, the Welsh government and higher education funding body Hefcw.

Start Quote

The University of Wales has a lot to answer for, but let's not forget the students involved, who will be asking what on earth is going on”

End Quote Luke Young National Union of Students Wales

He said: "The decision of the University of Wales, at the beginning of the week, to withdraw from all validation of courses at external centres in the UK and overseas now raises questions over its role and business model."

The UK Border Agency is carrying out an investigation into the latest allegations about University of Wales-validated qualifications.

Overseas students were offered the opportunity to cheat their way to degrees and visas.

Two staff at Rayat London College have been suspended and the registrar has resigned. The college has informed the police and dissociated itself from any alleged wrongdoing.

UoW would not comment on the scam allegations.

'Change radically'

A Welsh government spokesperson said the education minister was "mindful of the conclusions" of the McCormick Review in respect of the University of Wales.

The review said the university needed to change radically and had become dependant on income from validating courses in colleges overseas.

"Today, stakeholder engagement on Hefcw's recommendations on the future of higher education in Wales has closed," added the spokesperson.

"The minister will make a statement on his own conclusions on the future of the University of Wales when he responds to this."

National Union of Students Wales president Luke Young said: "Clearly discussions about the institution's name after a merger with Swansea Met and Trinity St David are important, but this should happen in an orderly way.

"The University of Wales has a lot to answer for, but let's not forget the students involved, who will be asking what on earth is going on."

  • Week In Week Out: Cash For Qualifications was broadcast on BBC One Wales on Wednesday 5 October at 20:30 BST. It can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer.

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