In this working paper we present an analysis of the merger process in Wales in the period from 2002-2012. The mergers were initiated to reduce the overall number of universities as part of an effort to increase the overall competiveness of the Welsh higher education system in the wider United Kingdom higher education system.
The Welsh merger structural reforms have been analysed by using a governance approach to HE mergers. The aim is to understand whether the structural reform process can be understood as functioning as an open method of co-ordination. The OMC can provide a conceptualization of bottom-up driven merger processes. This is certainly the case for countries like the UK where universities have high levels of institutional autonomy. Various elements of the OMC approach can be detected in Welsh merger reforms. The structural reforms provided for strong co-ordination and also strong initiative taken by the universities themselves. It is difficult to determine whether the co-ordinated mergers have been successful. On the one hand, it reduced the overall number of universities. The capacity of the system has improved and the average size of the institutions has increased. On the other hand, the desired end point of six institutions has not been met and the average size of the institutions remains relatively low in the UK context.
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