The Minister will deliver a keynote address at the Institute of Welsh Politics in Aberystwyth talking about the future challenges facing Welsh Higher Education.
The Minister will tell the invited audience that the current reconfiguration proposals for Higher Education in Wales are the product of a long history of political and popular attempts to create a higher education system in Wales which responded to the nation’s needs.
In a talk entitled, Education and the Welsh Public Sphere, Leighton Andrews will provide a historical context to the current debate about the future of the sector in Wales and will set out the four key challenges facing the higher education system as a whole.
The Minister will say:
“The first challenge facing HE in Wales is the challenge of the old middle-class model of HE, where every qualified 18 year-old was traditionally able to access 3 years full-time study away from home.
“The second is the transformative challenge of the best content from the best teachers being available on a global basis digitally. Third is the democratisation of HE and the thirst for learning, which is both a challenge and an opportunity.
“The fourth is the challenge of public accountability for the public money that is injected into the system, which in a climate of economic scarcity will sharpen, no matter how large a proportion of HE income comes from fees, and will result in stronger national governance and a requirement for better and more strategic institutional governance.”
Mr Andrews will also say that a better, more cohesive Welsh HE sector has been the ambition of the Welsh Government since devolution. This has had cross party support.
The Minister will say:
“Some history would provide a sense of perspective. The debate on HE reconfiguration goes back to the first Assembly.
“The very first policy review carried out by the National Assembly's Education and Lifelong Learning Committee in the first Assembly term was that of higher education. Under the chairmanship of Cynog Dafis AM, there was cross party agreement that there should be a revised structure of higher education, based on the cluster model, recognising that individual institutions were too small to be sustainable.
“You can trace it in the policy documents of that era, such as Reaching Higher and what you trace there of course is the emergence of a collective policy agenda, supported by all parties.
“I set out this history because it is important, I think, for people to understand the policy process and the extent of political and public engagement that there has been over time.
“This is not my agenda – it is a collective agenda pursued over time by governments in the Assembly from the first Assembly on. The agenda was confirmed in the manifesto of the incoming Welsh government in May 2011. Democracy will prevail.”
Mr Andrews also said that he would prefer to spend his energies developing the quality, range of provision, strength of research and the opportunities open to HE in Wales, rather than focussing with quite so much intensity on its structure. " But we will complete the agenda ".