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Aberystwyth University opposes Bangor merger

Aberystwyth University has said the Welsh assembly government’s suggestion that it should merge with Bangor University could be costly, disruptive and make the institutions look “weak”.

The assembly government closed the consultation on the report, Future Structure of Universities in Wales, on 5 October.

In a letter from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to Leighton Andrews, the Welsh education minister, the council said its “preferred outcome” would be that Bangor and Aberystwyth develop “by the end of our Corporate planning period a plan for merger”.

But in its submission to the consultation, Aberystwyth University said its student guild had expressed concerns about such a merger. In addition, it said, it did not want “universities with excellent research records being regarded as weak because of their association with a merger agenda”.

The university argued that mergers were “inevitably costly” and gave rise to “serious prolonged disruption”.

It “strongly supports the principle of working towards a world-class higher education sector”, but warned that merger was only one option for creating critical mass. It highlighted “research pooling” in Scotland as a successful way forward.

“AU sees its future as an independent but essentially collaborative university, deepening its strategic partnership with Bangor and also working with other institutions in Wales, in the UK, and internationally where this advances our strategic objectives and our own and the Welsh Government’s priorities,” reads the submission.

“The two institutions believe that a further extension of our Strategic Alliance, rather than an institutional merger, will provide significant gains for the region and a strengthening of existing provision,” it adds.

The University and College Union said in its submission that it would support a merger of the institutions “only when, and if, appropriate”.

It said its support would rest on whether collaborations between the universities were successful. “UCU’s support to any further merger discussions is conditional on this,” it said.