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Historic day as Welsh Government outlines post-16 education reform

(Adobe Stock)

The Welsh Government will today set out its vision to radically reform post-16 education, for the first time ever enshrining in law nine national strategic purposes for the post-compulsory education system.

Some of the arrangements for organising tertiary education in Wales have been in place for 30 years, before big increases in student numbers, devolution and major changes in technology.

To ensure learners have the support of a coherent sector, focused on widening access and increasing opportunities, the Welsh Government will establish a new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research.

This would mark the first time in Wales’ history that all elements of post-16 education – including colleges, universities, adult education, apprenticeships and sixth forms – would come under the one body.

The Commission would monitor, register and regulate providers, and set out the standards expected within the sector – including Welsh medium provision.

As well as proposing the establishment of the new Commission, the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill – to be introduced at the Senedd today – establishes nine national strategic duties. These legal duties reflect the Government’s long-term vision for the sector and will guide the Commission’s future work.

The nine strategic duties are:

  • Promoting life-long learning;
  • Promoting equality of opportunity;
  • Encouraging participation in tertiary education;
  • Promoting continuous improvement in tertiary education and research;
  • Promoting collaboration and coherence in tertiary education and research;
  • Contributing to a sustainable and innovative economy;
  • Promoting tertiary education through the medium of Welsh;
  • Promoting a civic mission;
  • Promoting a global outlook.

As part of these reforms, the existing Higher Education Funding Council for Wales will be dissolved.

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.

“This Bill gives us the tools to do that. In establishing the Commission, this bill gives Wales a new national steward for tertiary education and research, with the interest of learners at its heart.

“It will take a system-wide view, supporting learners throughout their lives with the knowledge and skills to succeed. It will help secure independent and diverse institutions that will make significant contributions to national wellbeing and prosperity.

“For the first time in Welsh legislation, we set out what we believe, what we want and what we need from a successful and prosperous post-16 education and research sector.

“The nine national strategic duties for the Commission embody that vision and provide the long-term strategic framework for what this vital and varied sector needs to deliver – as we recover, renew and reform.”