Swansea Met and Trinity Saint David join as Cardiff Met fights own merger plan

Swansea Metropolitan University's Townhill Campus Swansea Metropolitan University has merged with Trinity Saint David

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As two Welsh universities join under a scheme to promote closer working relationships another fights plans for it to merge with two others.

Swansea Metropolitan University and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David have agreed to unite.

But Cardiff Metropolitan University claims it is being asked to merge with Newport and Glamorgan without a proper business case.

The education minister says there needs to be fewer universities in Wales.

Leighton Andrews has also said it was vital for universities to build their strengths through greater commitment to collaboration, partnership and merger.

University of Wales Trinity Saint David was itself formed out of a merger between Trinity University College, Carmarthen, and the University of Wales Lampeter, Ceredigion. They joined forces in 2010.

Under the new merger, the Swansea Met brand will remain, but it will come under the umbrella of Trinity Saint David.

The new university will have up to 13,000 students.

Business case

Prof David Warner, the newly appointed senior provost at Trinity St David's, previously vice-chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University, told BBC Radio Wales this was the first phase of a series of mergers.

"We will in due course, in a couple of years' time, be merging also with the University of Wales and as we speak the board governors of two further education colleges in the south west, those of Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion, have also voted to seek to merge with the new university," he said.

He added that there would be no compulsory redundancies as a result of Friday's merger.

Elsewhere, the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport, said in July they would merge.

The merger plans also include Cardiff Metropolitan University, but on Thursday it claimed Leighton Andrews was asking it to unite with Newport and Glamorgan without a proper business case.

Cardiff Metropolitan University said it was considering referring the education minister's plans to force it to merge with two other universities to spending watchdogs.

Its board of governors believes that after a year of requesting to see the business case, it may not exist.

They are considering making a report to the assembly's public accounts committee - which scrutinises Welsh government expenditure - about "the manner in which the minister's office has behaved in this process with public money".

Chair Barbara Wilding said the board would also speak with the auditor general for Wales about how it was being asked to make changes without a business case.

On Friday, she told BBC Radio Wales governors would consider a merger if it was to benefit education provision and did not reduce choice of courses, the loss of hundreds of jobs and the closure of campuses.

"Any merger normally results in a reduction somewhere but, the point of this is, the gap between how much it is going to cost and how much is available could be very large indeed."

She said it was important to see a business case for the merger before further consideration could be given.

'Complex'

"The bottom line is we have a minister we believe has entered a legal process without knowing how much it is going to cost, how much the taxpayer of Wales is going to have to pay and what are the risks" she said.

"This would be the most complex merger in higher education in the United Kingdom.

"And having looked at those other mergers and how much they have cost to be successful... you are talking somewhere in the region of £100m."

The Welsh government defended its decision to press ahead with Labour's manifesto commitment to create "a smaller number of stronger universities", and welcomed the latest merger.

A spokesperson said: "We congratulate the governing bodies, management and staff at Swansea Metropolitan University and Trinity St Davids on the announcement today that both institutions will begin operating as a single university, without campus closures or compulsory redundancies, which is a model for future HE mergers in Wales."

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