The Welsh Government have been accused of being in ‘denial’ and burying their heads in the sand over problems on Wales’ Higher Education sector.
Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Sayed said that Ministers were refusing to exercise their responsibilities and that they were treating Wales’ universities as entirely autonomous organisations.
This was despite universities receiving significant public funding and the pivotal economic and community role they play across Wales, she said.
This follows news that Cardiff University plans to cut 380 posts over five years. The university has a budget deficit of more than £20 million.
The plans also include merging the School of Welsh with other departments that teach modern languages and literature.
Bangor University is also in discussion with staff about possible savings, while Swansea University has suspended its Vice-Chancellor while an internal investigation is carried out.
“We have a Welsh Government and education minister in a state of increasing denial about the problems which are growing in the HE sector across Wales,” Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Sayed said.
“We have on-going deficits in Welsh Universities, job losses in Bangor, Cardiff and elsewhere. We have staff under increasing pressure to fill in the gaps of lecturers and educators who have seen their positions disappear.
“There is also no concrete guarantee that changes as a result of the Diamond Review will bring in the extra money that Universities increasingly need.
“We also have issues of governance with Swansea University suspending its vice chancellor and head of the School of Management, amid some controversy. Yet we have no clue what’s going on with the internal investigation.
“Universities are also facing demographic challenges, with fewer Welsh students applying to attend Welsh universities and a decline – which is likely to get worse – of European Union students applying to come to Wales to study, too.
“It’s pretty clear to me and everyone else that there is a growing list of problems which are becoming a crisis.
“Perhaps if the Education Minister doesn’t want to confront these challenges, it’s time for a separate minister for higher education, so that hopefully that minister could begin to tackle and engage on these very real issues.”
Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith reacted with concern to the news that Cardiff University’s School of Welsh was to be merged with the School of Literature, Languages and Creative Practice.
“Downgrading the Schhool of Welsh would be a blow, not only to the University as an institution but to the Welsh Government’s attempts to reach a million Wesh speakers,” Mabli Siriol from Cymeithas’ Cardiff branch said.
“The students who are taught there are the teachers, experts and service providers that are essential if the language is to flourish.
“Without the status of an independent school it is inevitable that the resources set aside for the Welsh language will decrease and standards for students will drop.
“It is increasingly clear that Cardiff University does not serve communities or the Welsh language, but the market.
“The Government should look again at the public support they give the institution since they are turning their backs on so many of their services for the community in order to go after big money abroad.”