Welsh government publishes post-16 education and research bill

The Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill would establish a new umbrella organisation to fund colleges, universities, apprenticeships and adult education

The Welsh government has published its Tertiary Education and Research Bill, which will, for the first time, bring all post-16 education under an umbrella organisation and dissolve the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw).

Hefcw was established in 1992 by the Further and Higher Education Act of that year. It oversees research, student experience, widening participation, skills, knowledge transfer, institutional governance and financial stability in the Welsh HE sector.

The Bill published by the Welsh government proposes replacing it with the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER) in 2023. CTER will have responsibility for the “strategy, funding and oversight” of technical colleges and sixth-forms, higher education, adult education, apprenticeships, skills and training. It will act as a “single national steward of Wales’s tertiary education and research sector” and promote “life-long learning”, the Welsh government said in a statement.

The Commission will have a duty “to promote collaboration and coherence” in tertiary education and research and “ensure that all learners have a seamless post-16 education journey”, supporting government documents explain.

All HE bodies that want state funding must register with the Commission, which will have powers to monitor their quality of education, governance and financial stability. The Bill proposes creating a new Wales-specific apprenticeship system, an area over which the Commission will also exercise responsibility for operation and delivery.

The Commission will publish a code about how universities and other education providers must take account of learners’ views. The Learner Engagement Code may, for example, require universities to involve learners in decision-making, the Bill explains. Education providers will also need to make an outcome agreement with the Commission, detailing how they will use their funds to assist the Commission’s strategic plan for Wales.

The legislative details were first outlined in a draft bill published in December 2020. A commission on the Welsh government plans for CTER closed in July 2018.

It should enhance the tangible and significant benefits that our universities are able to bring to the people and places of Wales while also strengthening Wales’ position on the global stage
– Prof Elizabeth Treasure, Universities Wales

Prof Elizabeth Treasure, chair of Universities Wales, said: “The Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill introduced this week offers a real opportunity to put partnership and collaboration at the heart of our tertiary education system.

“It should enhance the tangible and significant benefits that our universities are able to bring to the people and places of Wales while also strengthening Wales’ position on the global stage. Crucially, it must provide opportunities for students to realise their full potential.

“We welcome the Bill’s enhanced focus on areas such as equality of opportunity, encouraging participation, collaboration and promoting a global outlook.

“While there will undoubtedly be debate, discussion and challenge as stakeholders engage with the legislative process, it is important that we focus on what the new legislation aims to achieve. We look forward to working with Senedd and the Welsh Government on the Bill as it makes its way through the legislative process.”

Jeremy Miles, the minister for education and the Welsh language, said: “Supporting our post-16 education sector to face the future has never been more important.

“Much of the way in which we support and organise post-16 education has been in place for decades. We need to grasp this opportunity for change, so that we empower our education providers to be part of a diverse, agile and collaborative sector that delivers for learners throughout their lives, as well as for employers and communities.”

Read more: Wales Innovation Network aims to raise research profile of nation’s universities

Image via Flickr.

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