PROPOSALS to create a new commission to oversee the higher and further education sector in Wales have been published by the Education Secretary Kirsty Williams.
The Welsh Government White Paper also sets out how the new body, which will succeed the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, will regulate the skills sector and have responsibility for funding research and innovation.
In March 2016, Professor Ellen Hazelkorn published her independent review of post-compulsory education in Wales with a range of recommendations that were accepted by the Education Secretary in January this year.
A consultation on the White Paper has today been launched, with the key proposal being the establishment of the Tertiary Education and Research Commission for Wales to provide oversight, strategic direction and leadership for the post-compulsory education and training sector.
Kirsty Williams said: “I am publishing proposals for a ‘made in Wales’ approach to post-compulsory education and training so that it is easier for people to learn and acquire skills throughout their careers.
“Our lives and economy are undergoing huge technological change. The knowledge and skills needed in a transformed workplace mean that ‘average is over’. There is rapid change in other parts of the UK and the realities of Brexit. Doing nothing, or maintaining the status quo, is not a viable option.
“Our national mission does not stop at the school gates. We need to ensure that those leaving our schools progress into a post-compulsory system which provides genuine parity of esteem for vocational and academic routes, and which equips them with the skills required for sustainable and rewarding careers. Such a workforce will allow our economy to be more productive and competitive and our people more prosperous and secure.”
A Universities Wales spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see today’s announcement of the Welsh Government’s ‘Public Good and a Prosperous Wales’ White Paper, with a full consultation on implementation being taken forward over the next few months.
“We share the Welsh Government’s aim of reaching the very best outcome that we can for prospective students who aspire to go on to study at a higher level, and of enabling universities in Wales to continue performing at a high level in research and innovation. Ensuring the best possible contribution from Welsh universities to our economic and social wellbeing must be a priority.
“Furthermore, a new approach to post-compulsory education, centred on quality and excellence, should serve to meet Wales’ skills needs both now and in the future. Analysis shows that the most successful economies have high levels of graduate employment and we will need to increase graduate employment opportunities in the coming years if we are to fuel the next phase of economic growth in Wales.
“Universities Wales is very supportive of the open approach being taken by the Cabinet Secretary in regard to today’s announcement, and while we will have strong views in some areas, we look forward to playing an active role in the consultation process and working together with Welsh Government and key stakeholders to build a consensus on the way forward.”
Commenting on the Cabinet Secretary for Education’s statement on Post Compulsory Education and Training Consultation, Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance and Economy Adam Price said: “Numerous reports by leading experts have called for the Welsh Government to establish a National Innovation Body, but in true Welsh Government fashion it has adopted a diluted down version of this by creating an innovation committee. Where is its ambition?
“The Welsh Government is going against the recommendations of two separate reports by world leading experts and of its own advisory council, all of which say that establishing an innovation body is key to allowing Wales to reach its potential. Research and Innovation Wales – the Committee announced by the Welsh Government today, will not replace the need for a dedicated innovation body.”