Five years to end Wales validations

'Residual body' will award degrees up to at least 2017-18, says v-c. David Matthews reports



Revelation: Medwin Hughes says it is 'difficult to give a specific exit date'


The University of Wales will continue to validate courses overseas for at least another five years despite having agreed to shut down its international operations in 2011.

Because of contractual obligations, students will be able to enrol on to University of Wales degrees at some of the institution's partner colleges right up to 2014-15, meaning that validation will continue until at least 2017-18.

The university announced in October 2011 that it would close down its lucrative international validation business following a series of critical reports by the Quality Assurance Agency and two undercover investigations by the BBC that exposed an alleged visa scam and fraudulent practices by partner colleges.

The latest revelation came in a letter from Medwin Hughes, the vice-chancellor, to Leighton Andrews, Wales' education minister, released by the Cardiff government on 5 December.

It says that in its attempt to exit validation agreements with overseas partners, the university found it did not have "any form of consistency in the initial legal contracts regarding exit dates or arrangements with validated centres".

As a result, a "residual body" will be required to award degrees "up to at least 2017-18", despite the fact that the University of Wales is set to merge with Trinity Saint David, University of Wales, and Swansea Metropolitan University, which merged earlier this year.

The validation of part-time graduate and postgraduate degrees could go on for even longer, as the letter says that "it is difficult to give a specific exit date" for this activity.

Professor Hughes stressed to Times Higher Education that the university was committed to shutting down the international validation model and no new agreements would be made.

"But from a due diligence [perspective] and [for] legal propriety, we've got to see it through," he said.

"The students on the degrees now...they must be given their opportunity to have their degrees," he added.

In 2009-10, the university received £10.3 million, more than two-thirds of its total income, from validating degrees at around 140 partners across 30 countries.

The international validation business was shut down by Professor Hughes after he became vice-chancellor last year.

The decision came as a surprise to some partners, who heard about the move through the media. The announcement was made just two days before the BBC screened its second undercover investigation into the institution.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com.

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