Saturday, October 1

Welsh Education–some thoughts

As you know, I am closely associated with Swansea University Business School for many years now, am on their advisory board and am a visiting professor there. As a matter of fact I will be going over there again in November to deliver a lecture to the post graduate MBA students. Most probably I will talk about what do you do in your first 100 days of a job. But I digress.

Let me get the initial thoughts out of the way. I think Welsh education is in serious crisis. What it does, what its designed to do and what it feeds back to society, I am not sure that it is working well. Wales to me seem to reduced to some advertisements on BA flights, far too many photographs of puking mewling unconscious drunk young people on the streets of Swansea and Cardiff, heavy unemployment, and generally bad figures all around. But do not take my word for it, see what the Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews has to say on this matter. I quote:

"I will be blunt and I will be candid. In the first six months I have been in this post, I have begun to wonder whether the Higher Education sector in Wales actually wants the Assembly Government to have a higher education strategy, or whether it even believes that there is such a thing as a Welsh higher education sector ..."

"Indeed, I am not clear - eleven years after the National Assembly was created, and thirteen years after our historic referendum vote - that the higher education sector in Wales welcomes devolution or democratic accountability at all. Since our education agenda in Wales is based on the principle of democratisation, that is problematic."

"We have had more higher education institutions per head in Wales than any other part of the UK but have failed to break free from the bottom end of the UK growth and prosperity table. Our HE institutions are small compared with those just over the border. For all the achievements of higher education institutions, they have had only a very limited transformative impact on our economy, and on our global presence and reputation · We are not having a high enough impact in terms of the quality and quantity of our research · For too many in Wales, higher education remains a distant, and irrelevant activity, clouded in mystery.

"If we are to make the changes needed; we also have to be willing to question what may not be needed. We do not want governing bodies that act simply as a bunch of cheer-leaders for university management.

"I was interested to learn recently that some members of university governing bodies have been appointed on the basis of a phone call. Who you know not what you know. It appears that HE governance in post devolution Wales has become the last resting place of the crachach".

For me, a university governing body or advisory board is like the board of directors. They are the trustees for society to ensure that the university sector develops and delivers. If the universities and schools havent delivered, what does that say about the great and good of Wales? (the crachach)?

Did you know that 52% of the funding goes to administration and support services in the Higher Education Sector based upon a PwC Report? Chemistry and Modern languages departments are closing down. Also guess what? Most of the research being done in the universities is public sector research funded by the public sector. I am simply gobsmacked. Where is the value add? Where are the people who create jobs and scientific discoveries and innovation and and and? Where is the research to support that? Where are the students who are taught to be entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists?

I try to do what I can. In my lectures, I bang on about the students going and setting up their own units. Investing their own monies. Teach them about sales. How to generate more revenue. Bang on in these pages about it. And so on and so forth, but if we have to do more, we need people to realise that there is a crisis. I dont think people have realised it at all. And because they havent realised it, the funding is going to start getting cut. At end of the day, this entire convoy of public sector oriented very inefficient and ineffective education is being paid for by the taxpayer. And they are starting to revolt. By that time, we will have ended up with a group of highly useless drunk people who are lying around the streets of Cardiff and Swansea. Like now.

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