|John Griffiths AM|
|Julie Morgan AM|
|Llyr Gruffydd AM|
|Lynne Neagle AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mark Reckless AM|
|Michelle Brown AM|
|Berwyn Davies||Pennaeth Swyddfa, Addysg Uwch Cymru BrwselAddysg Uwch Cymru|
|Head of Office, Welsh Higher Education Brussels|
|Caroline James||Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid, Coleg Sir Benfro|
|Director of Finance, Pembrokeshire College|
|Claire Roberts||Cyfarwyddwr Materion Allanol, ColegauCymru|
|External Affairs Director, CollegesWales|
|David Jones||Prif Weithredwr, Cambria College|
|Chief Executive, Cambria College|
|Mike James||Prif Weithredwr, Cardiff and Vale College|
|Chief Executive Officer, Cardiff and Vale College|
|Professor Maria Hinfelaar||Is-ganghellor a Phrif Weithredwr Prifysgol Glyndŵr|
|Vice-chancellor and Chief Executive, Glyndŵr University|
|Professor Medwin Hughes||Is-ganghellor Prifysgol Cymru y Drindod Dewi Sant|
|Vice-chancellor, University of Wales Trinity Saint David|
|Professor Nora de Leeuw||Dirprwy Is-ganghellor, Rhyngwladol ac Ewrop, Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Pro Vice-chancellor for International and Europe, Cardiff University|
|Gareth Rogers||Ail Glerc|
|Sarah Bartlett||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau||1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest|
|2. Ymchwiliad i Effaith Brexit ar Addysg Uwch ac Addysg Bellach: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 1||2. Inquiry into the Impact of Brexit on Higher and Further Education: Evidence Session 1|
|3. Ymchwiliad i Effaith Brexit ar Addysg Uwch ac Addysg Bellach: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 2||3. Inquiry into the Impact of Brexit on Higher and Further Education: Evidence Session 2|
|4. Papurau i'w Nodi||4. Papers to Note|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to Resolve to Exclude the Public for the Remainder of the Meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Mae hon yn fersiwn ddrafft o’r cofnod. Cyhoeddir fersiwn derfynol ymhen pum diwrnod gwaith.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. This is a draft version of the record. The final version will be published within five working days.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. We've received apologies for absence from Darren Millar and Hefin David, and there are no substitutions. Can I ask whether there are any declarations of interest Members need to make, please? No. Okay, thank you.
Item 2 this morning, then, is our first formal evidence session for our inquiry into the impact of Brexit on higher and further education. I'm very pleased to welcome Professor Nora de Leeuw—have I said that correctly?
Yes, that's fine.
—Pro-vice-chancellor for international and Europe at Cardiff University, Professor Maria Hinfelaar, vice-chancellor and chief executive of Glyndŵr University, Professor Medwin Hughes, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity St David, and Berwyn Davies, head of office, Welsh Higher Education Brussels. Can I thank you all for your attendance this morning? We're very much looking forward to hearing what you've got to say. And, if you're happy, we'll go straight into questions from Members, and the first questions are from Michelle Brown.
Thank you, Chair. Good morning, everyone. In terms of the European Union students who come to Wales to study at higher education, what do you think motivates them to choose Wales over other parts of the UK and other parts of the EU currently?
Well, certainly the quality of the higher education offer within Wales. I think what we have is we have recognised quality across our universities, and I think that from the teaching and also from the research, and that nexus of linking the research and the importance of that research within universities, and that is delivered then through effective teaching. I think it gives us that real platform to really celebrate higher education in Wales. And the evidence is clear that the international engagement is such that students want to come here, and it's something we need to build, and, clearly, in the context of this discussion, it's critical that we can do that. And the evidence is clear across the universities.
Yes. I think another aspect is the quality of life in Wales, which clearly would attract particularly EU students who aren't necessarily looking to study in huge metropolitan centres, such as London. And we have a different offer. Our universities tend to be a little bit smaller than the huge London universities, Manchester. Therefore, we can offer better support, so they can be reassured that, when they arrive, we'll give them a warm welcome, and that's certainly an aspect that, in our case—Wrexham Glyndŵr University—has played a huge part in attracting the EU students who we do attract every year.
And to add to what Medwin said about the research-informed nature of our programmes, our undergraduate programmes that we typically attract the most EU students to are also actually the programmes in subject areas where we have a strong regional economy. So, in our case, it's engineering in north-east Wales, and that's where we have the majority of EU students, mainly from Germany and France.
There are a lot more non-EU students studying in Wales. So, are the reasons any different for them, do you think, or would the reasons be very similar, or are there additional reasons for them?
Well, Cardiff has indeed a large number of international students, but also 5 per cent of our undergraduate students are from the EU. That rises to 10 per cent for research students, presumably because, well, not presumably, but because they have the same access as our UK students at present, and they're very highly motivated to come to Wales. I think there may be a cultural aspect as well to some EU students choosing Wales over, say, other universities in the UK, particularly from smaller countries like Holland, for instance, or Belgium, the Basque Country, Brittany—those sorts of countries where they feel a very strong affinity with Wales, rather than the UK generally.
Are there any barriers at the moment to recruiting international students? Because, obviously, you can charge them higher fees, it's an obvious income stream. So, are there any barriers there to you recruiting?
The difference between recruiting non-UK EU students at present and international students from outside the EU is obviously the visa regime. It's much more difficult for international students to get visas. It's not difficult in that they don't get them, but it's a much longer process. There's the post-study work visa that has been removed. That had a huge hit on our Indian market, for instance. That, of course, with EU students is not there: there are no visa issues; they can work whilst they study and they can work after they study. So, that is definitely something that, once we have left the EU as the UK, we should really hope that the Welsh Government will look into working on with the UK Government to make that as smooth as possible, because that has proven to show that that sort of regime is very detrimental to our international student recruitment.
That brings me on to my next quick question really well, because what would you like to see? How would you like to see immigration and the other rules change to make it easier for you to recruit international students and make Wales a more attractive place for international students to come and study?
We would certainly like to have the international students taken out of the net migration numbers, because that would make a huge difference. There is quite a bit of evidence to show that generally, people do not see students as migrants; they see them just like they are—they are students, they come here, they contribute to the economy, they contribute to our cultural life and then they go back with all the skills. In fact, they go back with a very good feeling about the UK and Wales, and that is great for soft diplomacy and building networks abroad.
The mobility that my colleague mentions there with students, clearly, also attests for staff. If we are going to make sure that we can celebrate that we have a strong educational ecosystem and we bring the best into Wales to develop teaching and the value of research, it's so important that we have those flexible structures in place, where we get the best of our researchers so that we can really build upon what has been achieved to date. You all know from the evidence with the research excellence framework that the importance of the international engagement here is crucial for us, not only in developing strong mobility opportunities, but developing flexible frameworks that allow us to really show the benefits or the value of higher education in Wales.
As well as inward mobility, outward mobility is a very important aspect of the current arrangements. So, we'd like to see them continue as well: opportunities for Welsh domiciled students to study abroad, currently facilitated through Erasmus, and we'd like to see that continue in some form, because it's of huge benefit to them as well.
I think Erasmus+ has been key for giving students from Wales that opportunity of an international profile. I think that over 4,000 students from 2014-15 to 2020 are having a chance to follow that programme. How do we secure that for the future? How do we develop an appropriate open framework so that we can continue to develop those links?
If I may, Michelle, just on the Erasmus+ issue, one point that's being made to me is that it's somewhat inflexible in the options that it can give universities and, in particular, a number of universities have success in offering joint degrees with partner universities, but aren't able to do that within Erasmus+. Could you see, post Brexit, a more flexible programme or approach that could facilitate those joint degrees to a greater extent?
We have got a full section on Erasmus+ coming up, so, if you can briefly answer that, and then we'll come back to Erasmus+.
Very briefly, the Erasmus+ scheme is evolving and is going to be a lot more flexible from next year onwards, which really addresses any concerns that it was a bit of a straitjacket. So, it'll be more flexible in terms of the period of time and where students and staff can be supported around mobility. And, of course, as part of the European quality framework, any work around joint degrees is also evolving. So, we don't see that as an issue. For us, it would still be hugely beneficial to participate in the future model under Erasmus+.
Yes, just about the—. EU students, obviously, have been entitled to the tuition fee grant, which is a drain on the public purse. Has that changed, has that affected, the focus of your recruitment at all?
EU students, when they're coming to study within our universities, as you say, have access to the Student Loans Company, which means that, like any other UK or Welsh student, they need to repay that tuition fee subsequently, once they graduate. There are also studies that have looked at what is the economic impact of international students, including EU students, coming here, and how much do they contribute to the local economy and so on. That is actually a multiple of the grant, which has been around £5,000, that the Welsh Government has, to date, contributed to each European student coming in. But, of course, post Diamond, that's changing anyway. So, from this September onward, everybody will be paying £9,000—Welsh students, EU students will be paying £9,000. So, that grant has gone.
But, apart from that, studies have shown that each EU student coming in contributes a further £10,000 to the economy—they need to live somewhere, they have to eat, they bring visitors. So, there is actually a multiplier effect on the plus side that more than makes up for that £5,000 subsidy that there was, that there has been up to now, which is being phased out anyway.
And when you consider the importance of that multiplier effect, looking at economic capital across Wales, where universities are located, in order to allow us then to strengthen that socioeconomic base across the country, I think that's a key element. All of our universities have benefited and have maximised those opportunities. To lose that would have a major detrimental effect on our communities that we serve as well, right across the country.
Can I just ask: has the Welsh Government ever suggested then, directly or indirectly to Welsh universities to not recruit EU students because of the cost to the public purse?
Not at all. No, no, no. The opposite, actually; we've been encouraged to bring as many students in as we can, to attract them here, because of the beneficial impacts that it has all round.
The engagement has been clear: to celebrate Wales and to bring students into Wales.
Okay. And can I just ask as well—? Professor de Leeuw, you said in your paper that, without mitigating action, Wales faces losing 80 to 90 per cent of its EU students. Can you just tell us what made you come to that finding, and can I ask the rest of the panel whether you agree with that assessment?
Okay. Well, that was based on the students from the EU outside the UK who have access or have taken up access to the Student Loans Company. So, in 2015-16, that was about 84 per cent across Wales. On our own numbers, in 2016-17 and 2017-18, it has been 81 per cent of our non-UK EU students who have taken up loans from the Student Loans Company. So, we are expecting that these students, once they no longer have access to the Student Loans Company, will not be able to afford to study by having to pay up front, and that could be exacerbated, of course, once the fees become much higher, apart from even the fact of whether they would want to invest this, because there are a lot of attractive points in the UK's universities. As has already been mentioned, there's the high quality of the education, the shorter programmes, the fact that we have conversion courses from, say, history to law that are not available elsewhere. So, there are a lot of attractions to the UK, and particularly in Wales as well. But we consider that those students that need the Student Loans Company to finance their studies will probably no longer come to the UK. So, that's an assessment based on that.
We absolutely share that. We work with a number of colleges in Germany, vocational colleges, and we have an articulation route mapped out with those colleges. They send us about 150 students each year, and those students come into the final year of engineering programmes at Wrexham Glyndŵr University. There is absolutely no way that they would be able to afford paying fees up front in the middle of their programme of studies. It's just not going to happen. So, that particular arrangement would, essentially, die on its feet.
We have a similar model looking to vocational technical progression routes from partner institutions. It would be extremely difficult for them to continue in the same way that Maria has noted.
I do realise that, across Wales, there is probably that sort of number. I think in other universities in the UK it may be slightly different. For instance, in some of the London-based universities, of their students, only about 50 per cent to 60 per cent take up student loans. So, they may be slightly different than it may be elsewhere. But certainly in our case, and that seems to mirrored by my colleagues, it's a very high number.
Bore da. Rwy'n mynd i ofyn fy nghwestiynau yn Gymraeg, felly os oes angen offer cyfieithu, fe allwch chi ei ddefnyddio fe.
Rwyf eisiau ffocysu ychydig ar brofiad y myfyrwyr a symudedd y myfyrwyr hefyd. Mae profiad y myfyrwyr yn gysyniad gwbl allweddol o fewn addysg uwch, ac mae'r arolwg myfyrwyr cenedlaethol yn gyrru hynny—mae'n rhyw fath o brocsi mewn gwirionedd ar gyfer ansawdd profiad y myfyrwyr. Roeddwn i jest eisiau holi os ydych chi fel darparwyr wedi bod yn monitro mewn unrhyw ffordd effaith y refferendwm a phroses Brexit ar brofiad myfyrwyr. A ydych chi'n gallu rhoi eich bys ar unrhyw effaith mae hynny wedi'i gael ar y profiad hwnnw?
Good morning. I'm going to ask my questions in Welsh, so if you need translation equipment, you can use it.
I want to focus a little on the experience of students and the mobility of students also. The student experience is a key concept in higher education, and the national student survey drives that—it is some kind of proxy indicator in terms of the experience of students. I just wanted to ask whether you as providers have been monitoring how the referendum and the Brexit process have impacted the student experience. Can you put your finger on any effect that's had on that experience?
Yn amlwg, mae symudoledd yn aruthrol o bwysig ar gyfer edrych ar y cyfleoedd ar gyfer myfyrwyr o fewn eu cyrsiau. Fe dybiwn i fod yr holl brifysgolion yn edrych yn ofalus iawn ar beth ydy'r goblygiadau a'r risg ar gyfer symudoledd. Rwy'n siŵr y down ni yn ôl at Erasmus+ yn y man. Ond, o edrych ar gyrsiau galwedigaethol, ac edrych ar y cyrsiau sydd gennym ni, y cyrsiau twristiaeth, mae'n rhan annatod o'r cwrs israddedig. Mae 20 y cant o'r myfyrwyr ar y cyrsiau hynny yn mynd drosodd o Gymru i Ewrop, ac mae mor bwysig fod hynny'n parhau. Felly, mae'n rhaid i ni fod yn ofalus iawn wrth i ni ddatblygu beth bynnag fydd y systemau newydd, fel eu bod nhw'n ddigon hyblyg i ganiatáu bod y myfyriwr yn cael y profiad gorau ar gyfer ei gwrs prifysgol.
It is obvious that mobility is extremely important when you look at the opportunities for students within their courses. I would think that all universities are looking very carefully at what the implications and risks are for mobility. I'm sure we will return to Erasmus+ in a moment. But, looking at the vocational courses, and looking at the courses that we have, tourism, for example, it is an integral part of the undergraduate course. Twenty per cent of the students on those courses go from Wales to Europe, and it is so very vital that that continues. So, we have to be very careful when we're developing whatever the new systems may be, so that there is flexible to enable students to have the best possible experience for their university course.
Fe fyddai colli'r cyfleoedd yna yn tanseilio neu'n gwanhau cyflogadwyedd yr unigolion hynny wedyn, buaswn i'n tybio.
Losing those opportunities would undermine or weaken the employability of those individuals, I would assume.
Buaswn i'n tybio, yn sicr. Mae'r gallu i gael profiad mewn gwlad arall, boed hwnnw mewn cyd-destun gwaith, cyd-destun diwylliannol neu brifysgol arall, yn amheuthun. Nid yw ond yn ychwanegu at brofiad addysg uwch. Eto, mae'n werth i ni ddathlu: mae yna gymaint o arferion da ar hyn o bryd ar draws y prifysgolion yng Nghymru—modelau diddorol ac amrywiol. Mae'n bwysig iawn ein bod ni'n gallu diogelu hynny ar gyfer y dyfodol.
Yes, I would have thought so. The ability to have the experience of going to another country, whether it is in a work context, a cultural context, or another university, is very valuable. It can only add to the higher education experience. Once again, we should celebrate: there is so much good practice out there at present throughout Welsh universities—there are interesting and varied models. It's very important that we can safeguard those for the future.
Roeddwn i jest am ddweud bod astudiaeth ar Erasmus+ wedi cael ei gwneud, sy'n seiliedig ar ddata oddi wrth HESA, sydd yn edrych ar yr effaith ar fyfyrwyr sydd wedi treulio cyfnod dramor, gan weld fod 19 y cant yn fwy tebygol o gael gradd dosbarth cyntaf, eu bod nhw 10 y cant yn fwy tebygol o gael swyddi sydd yn talu'n dda ac sydd yn cyfateb i'w gradd nhw hefyd, a'u bod nhw 20 y cant yn llai tebygol o fod yn ddi-waith. Hefyd, mae yna ddata ar fyfyrwyr o gefndiroedd mwy tlawd, ei fod yn cael effaith llawer yn fwy yn arbennig arnyn nhw nag ar fyfyrwyr eraill.
I just wanted to say that there was a study on Erasmus+ that was undertaken, based on data from HESA, that looks at the impact on students who have spent a period of time overseas, and it saw that 19 per cent were more likely to have a first class degree, they were 10 per cent more likely to gain jobs that paid well and that were in the same field as their degree also, and they were 20 per cent less likely to be unemployed. There is also data on students who come from less well-off backgrounds that it has a much greater impact on them than it does on other students.
Os caf i ddod yn ôl ar y pwynt olaf. Ar gyfer myfyrwyr o bosibl sydd yn dod o gefndiroedd tlotach, mae'r cyfle maen nhw'n ei gael i gael profiadau newydd yn aruthrol ac mae'n bwysig iawn ein bod ni'n diogelu hynny. Ond hefyd, nid yn unig ar gyfer is-fyfyrwyr, mae'r profiad ar gyfer myfyrwyr ymchwil o gyd-destunau ymchwil gwahanol mewn prifysgolion, mae hwnnw hefyd yn aruthrol o bwysig i ni ei ddiogelu.
If I could just come back on the last point. For students who potentially come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunities that they have to gain new experiences is huge and it's really important that we protect that. But also, not only for undergraduates, but for research students the experience of different research contexts in universities, that is also very important to safeguard.
Looking at it from the other side, we are a widening participation university and it's actually quite difficult for students from widening participation backgrounds, even with Erasmus grants, to go aboard. There are all sorts of barriers, which I won't go into now. But, for them, it's a massive opportunity that we have incoming Erasmus students, because it helps them to internationalise at home, if you like, and to work with fellow students from other European countries on a whole range of projects. For instance, in our creative industries courses, where we tend to attract the most Erasmus students from other European countries, this year, we had arranged projects with regenerated parts of Wrexham with the new Tŷ Pawb arts centre, involving Polish students, French students, Welsh students on fine arts courses. It was a fantastic experience for our Welsh-domiciled students, most of whom don't really consider studying abroad no matter what you put in front of them in terms of support measures. So, there is that aspect to it as well.
But maybe being exposed to that experience would make it a little bit more likely that they would be interested in travelling themselves.
Absolutely, absolutely. It helps to give them confidence, it opens their eyes to other cultures and other countries, maybe not so much other languages, because of course they speak English together, but it really helps in their development as people.
I would like to echo that. It builds a real community to get students coming in and also leaving. But then there is the more academic problem in that we have a lot of modern language courses, which have a compulsory year abroad, and without Erasmus or something similar that would be almost impossible to deliver. So, that would really affect the students studying modern languages and, therefore, affect their employability.
I understand that 20 per cent of the students at Cardiff University take part in mobility opportunities. Is that right?
Mi wnaethoch chi sôn am 20 y cant, o gwrs penodol, ie?
You spoke of 20 per cent of a specific course, yes?
Dyna ni. Sori, rydw i'n neidio yn ôl ac ymlaen. Mi wnaf sticio at y Gymraeg. Jest o ran Caerdydd, pa gyfran o'r myfyrwyr hynny sy'n cael y cyfleoedd yna sy'n cael eu hariannu gan y brifysgol ei hun, oherwydd nid ydynt i gyd yn cael eu hariannu drwy Erasmus, nac ydynt?
There we are. Sorry, I'm going back and forth. I'll stick with the Welsh. Just in terms of Cardiff, what percentage of those students that have those opportunities are funded by the university, because they're not all being funded through Erasmus, are they?
Okay, so, in terms of our current numbers, we have 20 per cent of students who have outward mobility. So, these are our home students that go abroad. Of those, 27 per cent are supported by Erasmus. That sounds as if that's only a small proportion, but actually that is about 40 per cent of the funding and those are particularly students that have to spend semesters and whole years abroad. So, the university funding that's available in bursaries and scholarships and GO Wales, et cetera, the funding is usually for short-term funding. That is particularly focused on people with a disadvantaged background or BME background, where we know that the benefit is so much higher and where we can provide the sorts of experiences that are not available under Erasmus as it stands, although that's going to be, as Maria already said, much improved in the future programme.
So, yes, we are doing our best and we are putting our own funds in it. But 40 per cent of the funding would be extremely difficult to find and to make sure that we continue to have this available to all our students. Besides, we won't, of course. On 20 per cent we are working very hard. In an ideal world we would like 100 per cent of our students to go abroad and we are very much working on at least a target of 30 per cent, but beyond that as well. Of course, without a programme like Erasmus that is going to be almost impossible.
But in terms of your own discrete funding, has that increased or is that reducing?
Well, we've kept it steady. Whether we can increase it will depend on so many different factors that I can't really give an opinion on that here.
Okay, and you've all touched on the fact that students from less well-off backgrounds prefer shorter term opportunities. Is that something that you're proactively looking to increase, because, clearly, Glyndŵr, for example, has a particular focus in that respect, and others would as well I would imagine?
Yes, a lot of our opportunities are funded by the university or co-funded. Usually, students will pay something, but the bursaries are larger for students with less financial means. They are all based on the short term. So, they can be volunteering, they can be school-led activities or they can be short-term study, or even working abroad. There is a whole range of opportunities, but they are based on three or four-week programmes.
In the last two years post referendum, have you seen any increase or reduction in those showing an interest in these kinds of opportunities?
Well, in our case, it's been an increase, but we're working pretty hard, so I can't tell whether that's due to Brexit or whether it's due to our own hard work.
Yes. It was further back that I wanted to come in really. It is, I suppose, deeply ironic as we leave the EU that there is this proposal to double the amount of money to go into Erasmus and to make it much more flexible in terms of working with young people generally, and vocational courses, and widening it beyond the universities. So, you have partly answered it now, actually, but how much of a loss would it be if we cannot stay within Erasmus? What are your proposals, really, for what we should do about Erasmus?
There would need to be an equivalent scholarship arrangement, funded somehow. Clearly, as universities, we're willing to put in as much effort and energy as we possibly can, because, at the end of the day, it would also then be up to us to make bilateral arrangements with partner institutions across European countries that want to work with us on this alternative scheme, whatever it may be. But such an alternative scheme would need to support outgoing as well as inward mobility. It can't be one-way traffic, because we're not going to be able to make arrangements with partner institutions in, say, Germany, France or wherever, if we then also don't make places available for their students to come over here. So, there needs to be equivalence.
So, as an outcome of the negotiations around Brexit, if we don't have access to Erasmus any longer, we would almost need to mirror it with our own scheme that does the same and isn't called Erasmus, but it's called, you know, Aristotle or whatever you come up with. [Laughter.] That would have to have the same impact, because there's no other way of doing it.
The other thing that, potentially, we would miss out is on the branding of the scheme. Erasmus is an established programme of over 30 years. It's known within the universities community as a scheme for exchange. It would be very difficult to compete with that scheme, in future, with our own programme.
I'm sure Aristotle could be a very interesting initiative, but the real value of that brand—we shouldn't underestimate the importance of it. I think, on the diplomacy of discussions, any pragmatic engagement here, it's so important that we can continue within that.
But it's obviously increasing your workload already, isn't it, presumably? Well, I know you're doing it in any case, trying to attract students, but in anticipation of Brexit, presumably this is demanding a lot of work time.
Yes, it would be very difficult to plan for all sorts of different scenarios. I don't know whether colleagues are doing that right now, but you can plan that everything will completely fall off a cliff and nothing will be in place, in which case we will definitely see an immediate drop-off of activity. This is going to take a huge amount of time to build something back up again if there is that kind of a hiatus. You will need to rebuild relationships, build new relationships, and that's going to take a huge amount of time.
There's a common language and common values linked to Erasmus+, and I think that gives us the flexibility, but also to be able to be fleet of foot in developing those relationships as well.
You speak of common language. Isn't there a very substantial demand from students within the EU to come to UK universities and to do so, potentially, for shorter periods, as well as the very large number of applications we get for degrees? If it were no longer possible to do that within Erasmus+, wouldn't there then be, instead, substantial demand for what other system or opportunities UK universities set up to allow that, including the opportunity for our language students to take advantage and vice versa?
There is the potential, yes. Of course, it is always easier and there are benefits to working in a big, established programme like Erasmus, where it also builds a community of students coming and going. There is always, as you said, demand from students wanting to come to the UK to an English-speaking environment, although a lot of universities in Europe, of course, are actually beginning to provide complete degree programmes in English. The nice thing about Erasmus is that because it's an established scheme that universities have all signed up to, if we get people coming into the school of languages, for instance, to have a year in an English-speaking environment, but our French students are going to France, that is fine, because it's a university arrangement. Once we start making bilateral arrangements, even if we do that as a university, it will be much harder if the school of French needs to send their students out—and for the school of English to pick up the students that want to come in. It's just easier and more straightforward to do that within an established programme, because everyone knows where they are, it's centrally administered et cetera. So, yes, most—or all—of these things are possible, should there be, of course, a UK-wide or a Welsh scheme to actually fund these activities, but as Julie Morgan already said, it will have a huge impact on workload and also it will impact the smooth running of it. So I think our students, definitely, for a few years, will suffer from the fact that there's no such programme available, that we have to create it, and that's one of the reasons why it really would help us enormously if it was clear what is going to happen by, say, at least the middle of next year—that we know about Horizon 2020 or Horizon Europe and that we know about whether we're going to stay part of Erasmus.
Berwyn will be able to attest more to this, but the evidence, clearly, of Erasmus+ is that it not only facilitates the opportunities for the student mobility, but to those academic staff who are then linked between the different departments. It creates this nexus, this community of practice, and that has an enormous influence then on the quality of the teaching within our universities as well.
So, we know that we've got challenges in the UK in terms of getting young people to study modern foreign languages at school level and at university level. Based on what you've said about the impact that Erasmus+ has on those students who have to do a year abroad as part of their degree—and I was one of those students who benefited from Erasmus—do you think there's a risk, then, that we will see fewer students actually opting for modern foreign languages at higher education level, particularly students from disadvantaged backgrounds?
Without doing an in-depth study, I would not know. I mean, my gut feeling is that, yes, anything that makes it harder will make it less attractive to students. It will be very difficult—. It would not be as good a degree if we said, 'You do not have to spend your year abroad.' Clearly, we could do that; we could say, 'Well, we'll give you a three-year French degree, you do not need to go abroad, you still need to learn French to some extent'—but it's not; I mean, it's more than just the language. It's the entire culture that you get to visit by having your year abroad; it's actually talking to people around you, being immersed in this language environment and cultural environment. So, yes, you can still learn the language, but I think you miss out on a huge part of what it means to have a modern language degree. We could, of course—whatever happens, we would have to look into trying to have to provide that year, but, of course, I cannot really comment on how that would work out or what our immediate plans are.
I'd like to ask about your financial strategies, really, and what sort of contingency planning you've carried out, or, indeed, whether you've already made changes to your financial strategies given the uncertainty around Brexit.
Well, there are a number of things that we can all do. Clearly, we all have internationalisation strategies that encompass our work with EU partners, but we're also, clearly, working with partners outside the EU. One of the things that we're doing at Wrexham, for instance, is we are expanding our transnational education network, which is basically that we offer some of our courses on a franchise basis with partner institutions in other countries around the world—so, China, Thailand, Malaysia; we've got a number of new partnerships coming on stream there. So, that is one way to mitigate a potential loss of income. So, I mentioned our German engineering students a while ago. With some of those engineering programmes, we're now building up a network of franchise partners through transnational education, which is all well and good in that it helps us to mitigate some of the potential financial impacts, but then what will happen is it will still impoverish the quality and the international dimension to the education programmes that we can offer in Wrexham if we have fewer international students on campus. So, yes, we can find financial solutions, but they don't necessarily solve the academic problem that we have. So, that's one thing. Obviously, we need to try and be proactive and diversify our internationalisation strategy and diversify income. Yes, we are doing that.
Putting an accounting officer hat on for a moment, in the context of managing the finances, I'm sure that every vice-chancellor will have noted that this will be high on the risk register of universities in order to ensure that we keep a very close eye on these issues. From a governance context, certainly in my institution, the transnational committee of governors are really focused on this. As Maria notes, it reflects also the educational area. I'm sure we'll come on later to the structural and infrastructure implications for universities. Clearly, universities have to have regard to the fact that there will be changes of funding available, and we must look to flexible models of identifying funding, but doing that within the context of due processes and making sure that the governance structures are appropriate. And again, as Maria notes, the transnational educational strategies of all our universities now are something that we are really focused on, clearly celebrating the European engagement but maximising other opportunities as well, taking a balanced approach.
So, would you have done any actual financial modelling of the potential impact of Brexit?
That's very easy to do. If you strip out all the income that we currently have from EU students enrolling with our university, then we know exactly what the potential price tag would be, and that would be in the public domain, because we all have our audited accounts and numbers that are available in terms of our student profiles. So, we can quite easily take out that particular cohort, and we all know what the costs will be, and what the potential damaging impact will be on the viability of our institutions and the viability of individual programmes that might see their student numbers reduced by 10 per cent, 15 per cent, 20 per cent or 30 per cent—whatever it may be. Then we need to ask ourselves the question: can we actually still afford to offer that programme? If we can't, that means less choice for Welsh students, unfortunately.
Yes. And in terms of infrastructure, income is one thing, outgoings is another. So, in terms of the cost base, have you given any thought to reductions that you might need to make there?
Well, again, across all universities I would have envisaged detailed discussions on scenario planning. We know how much funding comes from students from research grants. We will have taken a view on the implications of that, and how we identify other new opportunities, and this is where I think we have to be creative and look for those, and to maximise those to the value of our universities.
Just to give an example, fee income from EU students is about 7 per cent of our fee income. So, that's quite high. Obviously, we're looking at broadening and widening our recruitment. It's not going to come from the UK students because they're not there, and they're not increasing. So, it would have to be from outside the EU and the UK. Of course, we're all competing for students now. The UK was, I think, in the vanguard of looking for international and internationalising their student base, but other countries are catching up very rapidly. Australia, for instance, and Canada are very much focusing on the students that they feel they can take from us.
Then, of course, there's research as well. If we are no longer part of the EU and are not participating in Horizon Europe, we will lose a massive amount of research funding. At present we have about £34 million in research income from EU sources, mainly from Horizon 2020, some from framework programme 7. We can expect, over the next two and a half years, to get about another £20 million research income coming in. Now, that's quite different—even if UK Research and Innovation research funding is going to increase, it's quite different research funding. If we're just talking about the money, it's funded at 100 per cent, and has a 25 per cent overhead. UKRI, on the other hand, is only funded at 80 per cent. Yes, we can look at charities, but charities don't pay overheads at all. So, that's a massive financial impact. Then there are a lot of side effects. It's a different kind of funding. It's the funding to work with European partners, to have big consortia of where you get access to all the expertise and experience that you need to really deliver a very big research project with a very high impact. So, yes, financially, there will be a huge hit unless that is replaced by a new programme—not just increasing UKRI funding, but actually replacing the type of international research funding programme, I think.
Sometimes we forget the importance of the messaging. If you look to what's been achieved through universities like Cardiff, Swansea and other universities, the Horizon framework has been so important, and maximising that to the value of Wales plc, it clearly shows the international excellence of our researchers really making a difference on that global stage. And with that sort of engagement, it'll be difficult. So you really have to make sure, in order to celebrate Wales on that international stage, that we have those opportunities, and that funding is not there.
And, for example, just a few months ago, we were very successful, we attracted 11 research fellows funded by the EU—Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows—which is very good; they bring the best talent to Wales, and we have to co-fund fellows as well. You will miss out on that if you don't have access to this type of research funding. So, it's not just the money; it's the type of research that it actually supports.
Yes. And to add to that, EU-funded research focuses on global problems, essentially. Even if you were to find a UK pot of money somewhere that would replace the funding, as these are global problems, we cannot solve them on our own anyway. So, the best way to do it is to build networks of researchers across a whole range of different countries that pool all their expertise and work on it together, rather than us trying to solve the problem in a particular way and then not sharing it with others and vice versa. That really doesn't bring advances in knowledge and the real solutions that we need on things like climate change, healthy ageing—all those priority areas that feature so strongly under the Horizon 2020 programme. They are global problems, so what would be the point in hiving off the UK as a key partner in all of that and just sort of going it alone on these issues? That won't solve anyone's problem. It would solve the financial problem, but it doesn't really help.
There's also the issue about confidence—the confidence we should have in nation building and what our universities are doing on an international stage through the research. It is really making a difference, that translational impact of the work within our universities, and really maximising those opportunities for our researchers—that we bring the best Wales, that we maximise then that knowledge, that research, so that it affects also the international stage.
Could I just ask as well, at a sort of lower level, as it were—? In terms of income generation from things like providing accommodation, conferences, consultancy work and lots of other things that universities are engaged in that bring income to them, to what extent might that be further developed and maximised to offset potential loss of income because of Brexit?
Conferences are excellent for putting yourself on the map, getting the best people to come to Cardiff, from instance, and showing them what is being done in the university. They're not a massive income generator on the whole, academic conferences. If you want to compete with commercial conferences, then it would be difficult as a university to compete, I think, because then you would have to go to hotels et cetera. So, yes, it will bring income into the Cardiff region and Wales but not necessarily to the university. In the accommodation sense, my colleagues will comment, but it may be good in some places. In Cardiff, again, there are so many private accommodation providers nowadays that we find it hard to fill our accommodation at present. So, I don't think that will be a massive income generator, to be honest.
When you come down to the wild west—[Laughter.]—it's extremely important in the context of some of our rural regions. It makes a contribution, but, at the end of the day, nothing will take over from being part of those international networks where the research, the investment in crafting the question and allowing our professors then to have the quality time and appropriate funding to engage with international scholars to find the answers—because those answers are made in Wales, for Wales, but also far wider as well.
Can I just very quickly clarify something I didn't understand, if that's okay?
I just want to ask Ms de Leeuw, when you said you were having difficulty filling your accommodation, what does that relate to?
Well, it's quite difficult. I mean, we have accommodation available, but there is now a lot of private accommodation, particularly—quite often, for international students, it's more attractive to them. So, yes, our students bring in funding through accommodation to the region but not necessarily to the university.
So, in Cardiff University halls, there are now significant vacancies because of the—
Well, as far as—. I would have to come back with figures on that. I have no idea—. I do know that we have accommodation available for our first years particularly, but I also know that there is a lot of commercial accommodation available now. But then there is the other matter that universities should not become accommodation providers to make up for the loss of income from research and tuition fees, I think.
Yes. We have already touched a bit on research, but I wonder if you can tell me whether there have been any signs so far in terms of opportunities lost or any sort of drift of researchers away from Welsh universities. Has anything happened so far or have you managed to keep things going generally until now?
Well, we particularly have done a very big drive to encourage our staff, our academic staff, to keep applying for Horizon 2020 funding. I think there was very much a feeling that, 'Oh, they won't want us now that the UK is leaving.' This has not yet materialised. We have been doing well, but there is circumstantial evidence I've heard from colleagues—I cannot really give concrete examples—that UK colleagues have been asked not to lead EU Horizon 2020 programmes or in fact to sometimes step back. This is not particularly from Cardiff; this is just things I've picked up from colleagues generally. So, I think that, if you did a study, it might give interesting results, but I can't possibly give data on that.
I can back that up with an example. We are involved in a European network looking at social enterprise and building social enterprises and supporting them with business models. We are now on to the next generation of that particular project. We led the first one; we are now a partner in the second one, because with everyone's agreement in this particular partnership network we felt it was better and less risk posed to our colleagues if we didn't lead the next iteration of it in case we crash out of the EU without a deal in mid-flow of that particular project. So, we're still part of it, but we're no longer in the co-ordinating role, which is a real shame because we do have quite a strong centre of expertise in that area.
I can concur that there are several projects where the university has been asked, yes, to engage but not to lead within the network.
The Treasury guarantee that was announced after the referendum has helped to alleviate some of the concerns, and then of course the agreement through transition to be a member of the programme till the very end is welcome. The issue we found, particularly with the Treasury guarantee, is that it is known in the UK that it exists but trying to communicate that to potential European partners has been a problem because they're not necessarily always aware of it. So, it's very difficult to have a communication drive in other countries so that all researchers across Europe know that that guarantee exists, and that is an issue that we're trying to address as much as we can.
Right. So, there has been a sort of a shift, basically, in that we are not being able to lead things so much as in the past.
And what I think we find is that, in the stats, there isn't that much change in terms of the success rates and numbers of projects. In fact, we might find that participation rates have gone up even if the funding rates have slightly decreased, and that's because, of course, as a co-ordinator you get more of the funding than as a partner, but it might mean that we might be in more projects as partners rather than as co-ordinators. It's still very early days because, of course, we're still talking in 2018 about projects that have been evaluated in 2016-17. So, we'll have to wait to see what the actual effect is.
Right. And then to go on to the other sources of funding, which you've already referred to, I know there have been calls to say that Welsh universities should be getting more of the research and innovation budget—the UK budget. How do your universities fare in terms of getting funding from that budget? Is there any more potential there?
Do you want to start with Cardiff, as the biggest player in that area?
We get our fair share from UKRI—
Wales does not get its fair share, that's correct. I believe there was a Royal Society report that showed that—
One and a half per cent below what we should be getting, all things being equal—1.5 per cent less.
So, we could do better, obviously, there in that case. There's something to look at at the internal processes as well, and encouraging people. Of course, there are only so many sources that can be applied to by individual academics, which is where these programmes always go. I think we would have to work more, perhaps, with partners. More and more funding nowadays goes to big programmes rather than to individual academics, so that's something that we could look into providing help with. I think Cardiff is of course partnered with the GW4 universities of Exeter, Bath and Bristol. That may help in accessing more funding.
Well, there is the potential to do things more jointly, which is where I think a lot of funding goes. The UKRI is very much looking at industrially engaged research, so, again, we may not be in the best position in Wales to really be extremely successful, as some other areas of the UK. But, again, we can work on that.
So, yes, there is potential, and I think, actually, we should at least get up to the UK average.
And I think it's also important that we have the confidence in our universities, in the quality of what we do. We know that we have international excellence, and in the context of preparing bids to UKRI, we should have the confidence to do that in partnership. The risk, of course, is in the context of funding that we possibly will lose from the EU, and making sure that that gap—. That's what we have to work very hard to do to maximise every opportunity to get more funding in.
The flexibility of partnerships, as you've noted, of working across regions of the UK for maximising UKRI—yes, I think universities welcome that. But the real issue from a policy context, if we lose the EU funding, is the implications for that in the context of research, research and development, translation work. How do we bridge that? I think our universities are more than capable of developing very exciting proposals to be presented in the UK context. But that in itself—we must look also to that gap if we lose that funding.
Yes, I'd like to emphasise again, if I may—sorry—that UKRI funds different research and different projects. It has been very helpful, for instance, to EU structural funds. One of our flagship programmes is the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre—it's the only facility in Europe. The only other facility that is comparable is actually in Boston in the States, and that's it. Two facilities in the entire world, one of which is in Cardiff. That was very heavily funded by structural funds, to the tune of £4.6 million. UKRI doesn't fund that sort of research or infrastructure at all. Even equipment always has to be match funded by universities, and there is only so much that a university can do that way. So, it's not as if you can replace the EU-type funding with this UKRI funding. Even though maybe we should get more UKRI funding, it's not a direct replacement, unfortunately.
On the gap between Wales and the rest of the UK, one thing that would make a big difference, and which is also one of the recommendations in the Reid review, is to put in place higher education innovation funding, HEIF funding, which exists in England, which is really a kind of seed fund for small translational research projects with industry that can become the kernel to grow larger projects out of ultimately, and to go for the bigger pots of funding from Innovate UK and the UKRI. So, higher education and innovation funding would provide that kind of a building block to build up a stronger presence, potentially, and to do better in these very competitive national funding pools, where Wales has lagged behind somewhat. So, if that particular Reid recommendation were to be adopted and implemented, and the proposal is that the higher education and innovation funding would be funded out of what's known as the Diamond review potential dividend, that could be put in place quite quickly and that would help—just as a practical suggestion.
You mentioned the structural funds. I think we shouldn't underestimate the importance of that in the context of our universities. If we just look at the higher education context, over £570 million has been brought in to our universities. We focus on Horizon, which is key. If you look to the development of skills and higher level skills and the engagement of that, and employer engagements—developing that key area, which is crucial for Wales—that has made such a difference. Capacity and infrastructure and the influence of that across our universities, across the country, has been enormous. The challenge now for us—we're working with Governmnet—is to maximise, hopefully, new opportunities to build that, which has been so important for us as a sector.
Can I just say that I think I probably should have declared an interest as the chair of the programme monitoring committee, so if we could note that—?
There has been a view, or there is a view, that the availability of European research moneys has resulted in universities in Wales not striving as hard as they might otherwise have done to access those UK research moneys, for example, and perhaps not developing an even greater level of excellence, which would have resulted in more UK research moneys coming into universities in Wales. Is that a view that you think has any validity or strength?
Well, I would find that very hard to believe. It is a completely personal view. We would have to do a proper analysis to get proper data on institutions, but academics will go for anything on the whole. The success rate—UKRI success rates are about 25 to 30 per cent, so they're actually higher than European success rates, which, as Berwyn already mentioned, are sort of 10 per cent. It's just different. There is only, of course, so much time you could spend, if you're applying for something then you cannot spend that same time to apply for something else. But I don't think that European funding should be seen as an easier touch and as something that is much easier to get. I'm sure that Berwyn would want to comment on that.
The question I would ask, I think, after 18 years of being involved in universities in Wales is what is evidently clear is the impact that this has had—the funding—in order to build a sustainable Wales. We're punching above our weight. Universities are delivering high impact and are maximising the value of research and are taking us on that international stage, with that European funding that has been key to us. Clearly, they have the domains and the opportunities, but we really maximise that value, and that has clearly demonstrated the real value of the sector.
Professor Graeme Reid's recent report made it clear that Welsh universities should be more ambitious and work harder in trying to get a fairer share of UKRI money, but I'm just thinking, post Brexit—if we get there—should we look at changing UKRI funding? Should there be designated funding for Wales? Should there be a discrete pot for Wales that better reflects—a share of the slice of the cake, or what? Do you have any thoughts, because you're more or less saying that any additional money from UKRI isn't really going to make up for what we might lose in terms of EU funding, but is there a way that we could amend UKRI funding, post Brexit, to maybe soften the blow or to give ourselves a better chance?
It might be a case of 'and' and 'and'. If the Reid review recommendations and the Diamond review recommendations—all of them—and they have been adopted in principle by Government, are all actually implemented, then a better baseline funding for research will be in place. Then, from that very healthy baseline, we can then more successfully, hopefully, compete for competitive UKRI bids, which really should be open to everybody and should be based on excellence and where the biggest impact can be achieved. So, I don't think there's anything wrong with our competitive model. It's just that we haven't been competing on a level playing field because that floor funding in England, certainly—I'm not talking about Scotland; I think maybe they are in a similar position. But, certainly in England, which is who we compete with, by and large, they've come from a place where they have already had substantial resources, and then it's just very, very hard to compete.
There has to be shared parity that allows us, as a sector, to have that opportunity. The quality is here. The excellence is here. The framework must allow us to be able to engage in that context.
Just very quickly, you've been really, really good coming here today to give us your views, but is there a way for you to feed those views and feed your needs into—? Because you've come up with a list, really, for us today of the things that you could do with being put in place to make the transition easier for you. How do you feed that into the Brexit negotiations?
Well, I think Universities Wales, as a sector, we value the opportunity of working with Government in crafting the appropriate opportunities, the language. It's shaping the solutions, and working together to articulate those to the benefit of Wales, to maximise the economic value, to make sure that we have the right infrastructure that will deliver for Wales—for civic pride, for economic capital and cultural gain. We do that in partnership with Government.
Universities Wales is a member organisation within Universities UK. The Universities UK chief executive has a direct liaison into the Department for Exiting the European Union. As a group of vice-chancellors, we have met with Alun Cairns on a fairly regular basis, actually. So, yes, we have a direct route in, and presumably there will be proceedings of this meeting here today, which I think has been really constructive and very helpful for us also to focus our thinking. We would really appreciate it if we, after this meeting, were to get a bit of feedback from you on how well our points have come across and what you have picked up from our contributions. Because this is a very important stage on which we have been able to air our views, and I think the questioning has been excellent.
We really appreciate you coming, and, as a committee, when people come to give evidence as stakeholders, we always keep you informed of the course of the inquiry, going forward, and make sure that you have that feedback.
But, on that note, we have come to the end of our time. It has been an excellent and very informative session. So, can I thank you on behalf of the committee for attending and for answering all our questions? You will be sent a transcript following the meeting so that you can check the accuracy of what's been recorded for your contributions. But thank you again for attending, and the committee will break until 10.45 a.m. Thank you.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:33 a 10:47.
The meeting adjourned between 10:33 and 10:47.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:33 a 10:47.
The meeting adjourned between 10:33 and 10:47.
Welcome back, everyone, for our next evidence session on the impact of Brexit on higher and further education. I'm delighted to welcome Mike James, chief executive officer at Cardiff and Vale College, David Jones, chief executive of Coleg Cambria, Caroline James, director of finance at Pembrokeshire College, and Claire Roberts, external affairs director at ColegauCymru. Thank you very much, all, for attending. If you're okay with it, we'll go straight into questions from Michelle Brown.
Thank you. Good morning, everyone. In 2013-14, Welsh Government statistics showed that there were around about 500 EU students in FE in Wales. For last year, they're showing almost no students. For a start, do you think these statistics are accurate, and what's your—? If there has been a decline in the number of EU students in FE, what do you think the reason for that is?
I'm happy to start there. I'm coming from the Pembrokeshire region and, just speaking on behalf of the south-west region, I don't think the EU numbers of students attending vocational colleges or further education institutions in Wales has ever been great—the 500 you mentioned. As a college, we've had very, very few, and I'm talking in terms of single numbers, so we haven't seen a specific decline either before or after Brexit.
I'd just like to add to that—I suppose that international learners is more of a growth area for us than EU learners.
Yes, it'd be the same. It's quite a small number anyway—500 spread across all the colleges—and it's certainly not a prominent part of what we do in north-east Wales, so I'm not aware of any variations either.
A similar picture, other than the fact that, outside the Erasmus programme, we are doing a lot of school international work or European work that is non-Erasmus funded. I've just left the building now, and there's a floor full of Spanish students doing stuff.
Do you face any difficulties in relation to the recruitment and retention of EU staff? How many EU staff are there out there in FE and do you have any difficulties recruiting them?
It's not a major recruitment pool for us. We tend to recruit locally or UK-based, so it's a different situation to what it is in HE, definitely. So, that's from a national point of view, but I don't know, locally, whether that's something, especially maybe in Cardiff or—.
Certainly, we've got a real sort of microcosm of people who work for us in the Cardiff group. We've got a French chef, we've got a Polish maître d', we've got an Italian maths lecturer. So, to be quite honest with you, it's a microcosm of society and we don't really see any problems.
We have very few EU staff as well. What could be different is for some of the contractors that serve our college—they have larger numbers of EU staff. I don't think they've predicted any major issues, and probably would be predicting that, if there were staff who left the country following Brexit, they would re-employ from a local employment pool. So, I don't see it causing any significant issues.
Yes, I think, from the skills point of view, what we're more concerned about is making sure that people from the EU working in the healthcare sector, in construction, and in agriculture—if they return to their countries, how do we make sure that we upskill our people here, or re-train, so that we fill those gaps. So, that's a concern for us rather than our direct staff.
I'm getting the feeling here that the recruitment of staff from the EU isn't a particularly big issue for you, if at all. How many international students do you have? Do you ever try to recruit international students?
Across Wales, 12 colleges in Wales hold the tier 4 sponsored status. So, this means that you can recruit internationally. Gower College, Swansea has an excellent reputation for recruitment of international students for its A-level, as do the other colleges as well, and it's a significant part of our growth strategy, moving forward. I think a lot of the colleges are looking more to that. Mike was talking earlier about the Chinese market as an opportunity, so—.
Yes, we've had some significant success with international recruitment in the past. We would have had in excess of 100, 150, 200 learners at Pembrokeshire College. Now, bearing in mind we're a relatively small further education institution, they were quite significant numbers. Restrictions of the UK Border Agency and their visa status for education study will have made a difference to that, and the decline that we currently see, we think, is largely due to that. Along with that, we used to service some United Arab Emirates military forces contracts for higher education, and they are not recruiting in our area at the moment, either.
One thing: international students are counted as part of the net immigration figure, so it's something we need to be aware of and make sure that we look at that, and is that unfair, I suppose. What we would need to make sure is that the immigration system is flexible enough so that it doesn't cause a huge skills gap here in Wales. But FEIs are community-based institutions that service their communities, and I think maybe that's why we haven't actually been over-reliant on European staff or learners, either, because we provide skills locally for our people locally.
How much interest is there in FE colleges in getting international students because, obviously, you're not restricted over what fees you can charge for them? It's a cynical thing to say, but they could be an income stream.
Well, most certainly, if you look at the Chinese belt and road initiative, which is to push the infrastructure forward, since the Brexit decision we've noticed a huge push from the Chinese officials we deal with in Shanghai to get involved in our college, most certainly in Cardiff. We've got a small sixth form in a province of Shanghai at the moment, predominantly teaching students physics, maths, chemistry, biology, computer science, and next year, we're opening a Shanghai centre in the Qinghai province, which will be a dedicated school to offer Chinese students A-levels in those areas, and then to come across to the UK, to Cardiff, to do the final year of their A-levels. That revenue stream for 250 students should be in excess of £3.5 million a year. So, we see China as a huge market for us, not in a sense that we would walk away from our communities, because that's what we're supposed to do—to support our communities—but a sensible, integrated approach to international development does create a revenue stream, but more importantly enriches our whole college as we start to progress that forward. So, China, for us, especially in the small trade war they're having currently with the US, has been a huge, huge opportunity for us, and we're after it.
So, to open up those opportunities for you post Brexit, what does our immigration—? I mean, immigration isn't devolved, obviously, but what would our immigration system need to look like for you to maximise on those opportunities?
A sensible points-based system. If we've got a points-based system that operates across the whole of the UK, we feel that has a real opportunity to access not only China, but also Latin America, Mexico. We've exchanged IP with the Mexicans and they're keen to work with us as well. So, we see it as an opportunity, actually.
We've got an international strategy in Pembrokeshire College largely based on an income generation strategy, but, if I'm honest, the cultural diversity that we've lost since we haven't had those international students based at our campus is quite significant.
So, only last year, we opened an A-level centre where we spent about £7 million and we integrated some of the local sixth forms into that provision as well, which now gives us an offer of somewhere between 26 and 28 A-level subjects. We've now signed a new contract to an agency in Cardiff to see if we can start again to build our international recruitment on the back of having really strong A-level provision. Now, we're not as fortunate as Mike to be based in the capital city here in Wales, so Pembrokeshire is a little bit far flung, but, in answer to that, what we have got is a really nice coastal community and a very safe environment, so we think we could have some success with A-level learners there. The only thing is that, obviously, the restriction now on two years of study at level 3 means that if they wish to come to us to do some English language prior to A-level studies for the more technical part of their course, that can be more difficult. But we most certainly would like to develop that side of the business.
Yes, I would just add that it's a relatively small part of what we do at Coleg Cambria and it hasn't grown. We do have lots of international links—we've got 150 students from Chongqing in the college this week, linked to the work that the Welsh Government and others have led on over recent years, but that's more of a visit. Interestingly enough, you're on about Cardiff being an attraction and Pembrokeshire has it's attractions; north-east Wales has its attractions, however, very often, Chester is a big part of the attraction when they come over here as well, if we're honest about it.
In terms of the broader development of international income streams, I think we're very clear, as a college and as a governing body, that we do it for the right reasons, as Mike has articulated. I think a lot of colleges, particularly in England, have really got their fingers burnt when they've gone chasing cash—that side's gone wrong and maybe they haven't thought, in the first place, why they were doing it. So, yes, we do have some students, but it's relatively small numbers.
Where we're looking to open up opportunities, particularly through our links to ColegauCymru, but also, again, alongside Cardiff and Vale College and the large UK group of colleges—the Collab Group—is that we're trying to work on strengths that individual colleges have. So, from our point of view, we're unique in having a massive aerospace manufacturing facility in north Wales, so we've got about 80 staff who are specialists in that area. That gives us a critical mass to start to work with other colleges with the potential of delivering international programmes in that particular sector, and there are some potential business opportunities emerging as we speak.
Are there any changes to the immigration system that would make life easier for you from that perspective?
There's a broader piece around Europe, which we might come to, and, obviously, it's a big concern to Airbus in particular. But, other than that, no, it's the point that Mike made earlier on in terms of the point-scoring system and so on.
Claire, you mentioned challenges that we might face in the general Welsh workforce as a result of Brexit and that there's some work going on in terms of preparing for that. Can you just tell us a bit more about that, but also whether you feel that the Welsh Government needs to be doing something to prepare for any shortages that we might face?
We've been discussing with Health Education and Improvement Wales in terms of the health and social care workforce and how we fill those gaps. So, we're looking at skills needs and looking at different routes into the workplace. We've touched on nursing apprenticeships, using what we've got and making sure that we're working closely on identifying the problems in the future. It's in its early stages, but I think it's something we could look at in each main priority area.
And, are you happy that Welsh Government are doing enough in this area?
They're involved in those discussions with us, so it's very much a collegiate effort, and so yes.
ColegauCymru stressed in the written evidence the importance of Erasmus+ for both staff and student mobility. On the verbal evidence we had just now—I think Michelle summarised it, but I also had the impression that it wasn't a very big issue for the sector in terms of the proportions of people affected—I just wonder if you could clarify a bit in terms of the data and how major an issue this is.
So, about 400 learners a year benefit from the Erasmus+ opportunities—
And, just by comparison, what's the total number of learners in the sector?
There are 15,000—no, 150,000, sorry. One hundred and fifty thousand learners, yes. So, it's a small proportion and the funding we receive is small when you're talking about the big scale. So, it's about making sure you don't get it out of proportion. However, Erasmus+ opportunities and the benefits are tenfold, and it's about reaching those learners who wouldn't actually ever have got a passport, who wouldn't have gone overseas, who wouldn't have had those opportunities. Our learners, unlike HE learners, go and they do two-week work placements. They're not study opportunities abroad; they are work placements. What happens a lot of the time is they come back and they've got an opportunity to go back in the summer to work and—
Again, it's the 400 a year. So, it's about 400 a year who go on that, and that's from across the whole of Wales. What happens with Erasmus+ is it's an investment from all the colleges, as well as the staff and the learners, because we have to—they're 16, so they're under 18, so a member of staff has to go as well, and then they stay with them. And then, of course, they come back and they've learned so much from those opportunities—
Well, it's a commitment from the colleges. They believe in supporting Erasmus+. It's an opportunity to learn from others. We don't want to be an island. The danger is we become an island in a geographical sense as well as mentality, and we need to make sure that we are showing what's actually out there, not just across the border, but internationally as well.
With only 400 out of 150,000 learners currently affected, are you looking at other opportunities, potentially, outside Erasmus+ where we could benefit from international exchange, whether with the EU or outside?
We're confident that we've had Government Ministers saying that they are completely committed to Erasmus+, and so we're confident that we will remain a part of Erasmus+. We think that that's what should happen, or, if not, can we join and be a member like Norway are, so that you buy into the Ersamus+ scheme, but you still get those opportunities that are tied into Erasmus+? It's also the staff, as well—so, staff get those opportunities, and they're not one-off visits. What happens is we build on those relationships and, actually, the YSDA project that we've just done ensures that we engage with harder-to-reach audiences, so the BME—
YSDA—it's a youth ambassador scheme. That's one of our projects through Erasmus+, and it means we are able to engage with BME communities in trying to get them more physically active, as well. So, there's a whole range of different opportunities that exist under Erasmus+. There's a key action 1, which is the staff and learner mobility, and there's a key action 2 that we are hopefully going to be successful with, and we're doing that with Simply Do, which is a small start-up company. So, we've made a bid for that as well. So, there are lots of different avenues that are linked to Erasmus+, not just the staff and the learner mobility opportunities, which are fantastic.
EU-funded projects, yes. Okay, fine, thanks.
I don't know how much you benefit, other than what you've said, from EU-funded projects. I wondered if you could, perhaps, give us an indication.
Can I come in with the top level first and, particularly Caroline, and Claire, may be able to fill some of the gaps in terms of some of the details? I think the main concerns that most colleges have, and, indeed, the wider sector of post 16, is around individual projects, be they for institutions, regionally based or national projects, where we've been receiving funding for a number of years. Now, clearly, in many ways, it's a concern that we have been receiving them for so many years, so there's that dependence on projects, which is a concern in the longer term.
But then, more specifically, a major concern, certainly from my point of view at Cambria, and it's one of the biggest problems that we face, is the fact that the apprenticeship programme in Wales—the work-based learning programme—has for a number of years now been presented as a European project. So, it has been made bigger in terms of the quantum available for apprenticeships by using European moneys. Now, that's been great, because we've had an increase in apprenticeships, but, with this uncertainty now, with apprenticeships being such a priority area, I'm really concerned as to the preparations that are in place to protect the interests of a really important and growing part of the education and skills mix in Wales. Alongside that, even at the moment, funding isn't good enough for apprenticeships. We've had our allocations last week, I think, or the week before, and they've just all being held at the same level. I know inflation's quite low, but it's a priority area that we need to improve. But they're being held back in terms of unit rates already, and top-sliced for initiatives. I am a bit concerned at the moment that we're top-slicing a lot of funds to create lots of initiative pots, which have bureaucracy with them. Now, I'm going a little bit off the mark there in terms of what I'm describing, but what I would say is that work-based learning is a major problem. I know John Griffiths, when he was a Minister—I'm sure he knows a lot about this as well. But I think, Mike, you'd agree that's a concern.
Yes, absolutely. We do about £44 million in apprenticeship work, circa, in the group. We're really concerned that there are lots of initiatives going on to take money off the top of the apprenticeship pot to do things that, actually, should be targeted right at the heart of supporting the businesses and community that we're serving. So, we just need to make sure that, even though we know money's tight—we're not silly; we are very sensible people—any money that is available goes direct to the apprenticeship programme and doesn't get siphoned off for initiatives in the broader sense.
I'm big on initiatives. I am an educationalist. I love initiatives, I love all those sorts of things, but, in this case, at this time, we need to make sure every single penny hits the apprenticeship front line.
From our perspective, Pembrokeshire College is the lead organisation for a work-based learning consortium contract as well, so that's at the top of our agenda. We've already had our funding allocations a week ago, as well. We're probably going to deliver in excess of £1 million more of apprenticeships next year than our funding will initially allow. You have your opportunity to go for pressure point requests, and I'm sure organisations will be doing that, but securing that work-based learning contract funding upfront and being positively funded so that you can run the contract properly is definitely a priority for us.
To come on to your question about other ESF projects, you'll have had the report. There's about £600 million being spent on things other than work-based learning—so, all other European projects—by further education institutions. So, a significant amount, and I think it would be fair to say that further education tends to be quite a trusted partner in terms of delivery of ESF. So, bringing it down to a regional level, there are probably two focuses we have on current ESF projects. The first one, and a significant one, is in terms of supporting learners most at risk of becoming NEET. So, that enables us as a college to provide a huge amount of support through mentoring and resilience and sometimes mental health issues support, social-type issues, and we work with learners. There are well over 400 in our institution alone who have significant barriers to staying within further education, and, by having that Cynnydd funding—as Cynnydd it's referred to in the west Wales region—we're able to ensure those learners stay on track, remain in the institution and gain their qualification, and by doing that they do not become NEET and they then are employable, sustainable individuals who will become financially self-sufficient in the longer term.
So, that's a really big part of what we do and ESF funding has enabled us to do wonderful things. There are about 7,500 participants in the west Wales region alone That's one part of the activity. Another part of the activity is where we have funding to support employers and employed participants. So, that allows us to provide subsidised training to those currently in work to upskill, gain qualifications and ultimately become more employable individuals. It allows employers to grow and invest in other things. It's a huge initiative, again—there are about 8,800 participants in the west Wales region alone. This project for Skills for Industry, as it's referred to, provides level 2 and higher level skills, and the project's worth in excess of £17 million. So, these are significant projects that make a huge difference to individuals in Wales.
So, if that funding goes, what do you think, from the FE point of view, would be the best way to replace it?
There are levers that Welsh Government can pull and there are levers that we can pull. So, for example, it's easy for us to sit here and say, 'Well, okay, if we lose a revenue source that is given to us to do these projects, we can go out there and earn potentially more commercial money to be able to do this ourselves.' Theoretically, it's possible; practically, on the ground, it becomes a little bit more problematic. If the European social funding stops in the current way it does, which we all understand it obviously will do, and if then, through the apprenticeship levy, which is an indirect tax, and the Barnett formula—whatever happens—say we get less money into the apprenticeship pot because of those three things, the Welsh Government may pull a lever that says, 'Well, level 3 and level 4 will be fees contribution by employers', especially with the large employers who can fund it to allow us to be able to use the money perhaps at level 2 to encourage parts of our communities to still engage with the apprenticeship portfolio. But I think the best way to do this is rather than one side do one thing and the other side do the other, I think we need to all of us get in a room and say, 'Actually if we're going to have a bit less money'—which we are—'how then best together can we work that forward to provide the opportunities for our community and the opportunities for our business?' Because we all want to make that succeed; absolutely everybody. And I think there's enough intellect in Welsh Government and in the colleges to be able to sit down and do that together.
Can I just add to that? I'm sure we'd all want to make sure that you all understand that there is a major problem here for the FE sector in terms of work-based learning funding in particular, but also projects. And so, we're open to working with whoever, particularly Government, to come up with innovative ideas to do it. But I think behind also what Mike is saying is that we recognise the need to change as part of it. This isn't about us saying 'Well, actually, what we want you do to is to find the money so that we carry on doing the same things, in the same way for the future.' I think we need to change some things. Perhaps, at the moment, it can be confusing. If you're talking about courses for employers, there's a whole range of routes. There's apprenticeships and related routes. There's European projects. You can sometimes use part of the FE funding income for employers, and sometimes they pay for courses, and then there's lots of other initiatives. And I'm not even bringing in the complications of being a college that's working on the border with England, which brings in other issues. But around all those different income streams is a real bureaucracy and a wastage that really concerns me. So, even though we may end up with some less money—hopefully not too much—I do think we can spend the money that is out there a lot, lot better.
Okay. So, in relation to your comments, Mike, about there being enough intellect in the sector to get people together, it doesn't—
I wasn't looking at myself thinking that. [Laughter.]
No, but are you suggesting, then, that not enough is happening in that regard? Obviously, what we're looking to do is make concrete recommendations to Government.
I think there is enough activity going on. All I'm suggesting is that I think there is time to pause and for us to get together, collectively get together—those that fund and those that do the work—and make sure we're not missing any tricks. Because we all, all of us, want to support our businesses, support our communities and make Wales great. That's what we all want to do. And I think just creating that opportunity for us to share intellect, share intellectual property, share ideas, share concerns, and then come up with something, I think, would be not a bad way of doing things.
Just to continue on that, I think one of the difficulties is that there's no information yet about how the shared prosperity fund the UK is producing will actually operate. What would you see in terms of the best way for that to operate? Because it's like a blank sheet at the moment, to us, at least. Do you have any ideas about how that actual fund should operate?
Yes. So, in round terms about what Welsh Government can do and the specific question, for me, there are two routes here. There's a short-term thing that can be done, and then there's the longer-term game. So, in the short-term, we know that, on the projects that are already running, we have funding in place until 2019 or 2020, depending on the projects. Nearly all the projects now have got continuation and extension applications into WEFO up to 2022. So, the quicker those applications and extensions can be agreed, at least in the short-term, that gives us some continuity, and that projects don't take take a dip in their outcomes and delivery. So, in terms of what can be done in the short term, that would be hugely helpful to us as project partners.
In the longer term, for the prosperity pot, in my view we have all the knowledge already garnered in Wales, through WEFO, on what projects have worked well, what the needs are, where the areas of deprivation are, and all those different things, rather than us all individually going to central Government and bidding for that sort of funding. I think it would be hugely helpful if that funding were allocated to Wales, and we dealt with those pots of money—in a bidding process, whatever—on a local basis, through organisations like WEFO that really understand the needs of the individuals who get to benefit. We know that we've benefited disproportionately in Wales through ESF funding, so we can only hope that central Government will see that and make the prosperity pot of money similar; I'm not saying it will be the same. So, I'd like to see a similar regime in terms of bidding, with reduced bureaucracy but using the knowledge we've got on what we need for the communities and the people out there.
Diolch yn fawr. Rydw i'n mynd i holi yn Gymraeg, felly os ydych chi angen offer cyfieithu, defnyddiwch e.
Rydym ni wedi ffocysu dipyn ar ddysgu yn seiliedig ar waith—work-based learning—a phrentisiaethau. Roeddwn i jest yn meddwl a oes yna feysydd eraill o ran darpariaeth—nid jest projectau discrete, ond efallai darpariaeth gyffredinol—o fewn addysg bellach a fyddai'n cael eu heffeithio petai arian Ewropeaidd jest yn diflannu? Pa fath o ganlyniadau neu outcomes fyddai'n cael eu colli o ganlyniad i hynny?
Thank you very much. I'm going to ask in Welsh, so if you need the translation equipment, please use it.
We have focused quite a bit on work-based learning and apprenticeships. I was just wondering whether there are other areas in terms of provision—not just discrete projects, but perhaps general provision—within further education that could be affected if the money just disappeared. What kind of results or outcomes would you have from losing that funding?
A gaf i ymateb yn gyntaf? Gobeithio fy mod yn ateb y cwestiwn iawn. Mae yna ddau beth amlwg, rydw i'n credu, yn sicr i ni fel coleg, ond hefyd, rydw i'n credu, i sawl coleg arall yng Nghymru. Y peth cyntaf ydy cefn gwlad, amaeth a ffermio. Mae gennym ni, rydw i'n credu, rhyw bedwar neu bum coleg lle mae gennym ni fferm fasnachol. So, yng Ngholeg Cambria mae gennym ni fferm Llysfasi yn Nyffryn Clwyd. Mae'n fferm o ryw 1,000 o aceri—ac rwyt ti'n adnabod y fferm fel person lleol. Ond y pryder yn fanna, wrth gwrs, yw ein bod ni'n wynebu'r holl drafferthion mae ffermwyr yn eu hwynebu. Rwy'n credu bod angen cryfhau'r strategaeth yng Nghymru sy'n seiliedig ar beth ydy rôl colegau yn y sector cynhyrchu bwyd ac amaeth. Nid wyf i'n credu bod yna gysylltiad digon cryf rhwng beth sy'n digwydd a'r colegau. Fe fuodd, flynyddoedd yn ôl, rwy'n siŵr, dros 10 a rhagor o golegau efo ffermydd, ond maen nhw wedi'u gwerthu nhw. Nawr, ar y foment, rwy'n credu bod yna dri neu bedwar ar ôl, ond nid wyf yn teimlo bod gennym ni rôl strategol yn beth mae'r Llywodraeth a sefydliadau eraill yn ei wneud. Ac rydw i'n credu, ar yr amser yma, lle mae newidiadau Brexit yn debygol o greu problemau mawr i'r sector, neu o leiaf pobl yn pryderu achos nid ydynt yn gwybod beth sy'n mynd i ddigwydd, hwn ydy'r amser i wneud hynny.
Beth oedd yn fy siomi i oedd, ddydd Mawrth, roedd datganiad o Lywodraeth Cymru ynglŷn ag ymgynghori ar y trefniadau newydd, ac nid yw hi jest ddim yn cael y coverage. Roeddwn i'n edrych ar wefan y BBC ac roedd e reit ar y gwaelod, tu ôl i storïau nad oeddwn i'n meddwl oedd yn hanner mor bwysig. Ar ddiwedd y dydd, mae amaeth—. Ocê, efallai nid yw e'n un o'r sectorau newydd yma mae pobl yn gweld yn rhai pwysig, ond os nad ydym ni'n edrych ar ôl amaeth a chefn gwlad, rydym ni'n colli ein hiaith ni, rydym ni'n colli ein diwylliant ni, a'n cymunedau ni, reit dros Gymru. So, mae hynny'n beth i fi, rwy'n credu: yr impact ar ein fferm ni ac eraill.
Mae'r ail beth yn rhywbeth hollol wahanol, sef y cwmnïau mawr yna sy'n gweithio, yn enwedig yng ngogledd-ddwyrain Cymru, yn yr ardal gynhyrchu. Nid jest Airbus ond cwmnïau fel Airbus. A dyna pam roeddwn i'n cefnogi'r datganiad a ddaeth allan o Airbus rhyw bythefnos yn ôl ynglŷn â'r pryder mawr oherwydd yr ansicrwydd sy'n dod allan o Lywodraeth Prydain ynglŷn â beth sy'n mynd i ddigwydd ar ôl Brexit. Y gwir amdani yw bod lot o gwmnïau ar draws gogledd-ddwyrain Cymru, ac ymhellach ar draws y wlad, yn dibynnu ar allu symud pobl a nwyddau neu rannau o adenydd awyren amboutu'r lle o ddydd i ddydd. Ac os ydym ni'n creu rhwystrau yn fanna, mae hynny'n mynd i greu problem fawr. Nawr, y peth i ni fel coleg ydy, wrth gwrs, y ffaith mai ni sy'n cynnig y prentisiaethau iddyn nhw i gyd. So, os nad ydyn nhw yna, os mae rhyw fygythiad i gwmnïau, mae hynny'n mynd i gael dylanwad gwael ar economi Cymru, ond hefyd, fel wnes i ddweud ar y radio adeg hynny, buasem ni'n colli dros hanner cant o swyddi yn y coleg—swyddi da, pobl sydd yn cael dylanwad da ar bobl ifanc—os na fyddwn ni'n sortio allan yr ochr yna sydd yn cael effaith ar gwmnïau.
If I may answer first. I hope that I'm answering the right question. There are two things that are obvious to us as a college, but also to other colleges in Wales, I believe. First of all, it's the rural aspect, agriculture and farming. I think we've got four or five colleges where we've got a commercial farm. In Coleg Cambria, we have the Llysfasi farm in the Vale of Clwyd. It's about 1,000 acres, and I believe you know the farm yourself, as a local person. But the concern that we have is that we face all the difficulties that farmers face. I think that there's a need to strengthen the strategy in Wales, based on the role that colleges have in the food production and agricultural sector. I don't think that a strong enough link is being made between what's happening and the colleges. There used to be, many years ago, I think, over 10 farms on colleges, but they've been sold. Now, I think that there are three or four remaining, but I don't feel that we've got a strategic role in terms of what the Government and other organisations are doing. And I think that at this point, when there are changes with Brexit and these changes are likely to affect the sector adversely, or at least when people are concerned because they're not sure what's going to happen, now is the time to do that.
What disappointed me, when I was looking on Tuesday, was that I saw that there was a statement by the Welsh Government about a consultation on the new arrangements, and it just didn't get the coverage it needed. I was looking at the BBC website and it was right at the bottom, following stories that I didn't think were half as important. At the end of the day, agriculture may not be one of these new sectors that people see as being important, but if we don't look after agriculture in rural Wales, we're going to lose the Welsh language, we're going to lose the culture and our communities, and that is throughout Wales. So, that's one thing for me: the impact on our farm and on others.
Then, the second thing is something entirely different, namely these large companies that work, particularly in north-east Wales, in the area of manufacturing. I'm not just talking about Airbus now, but similar companies as well. And that was why I supported the statement that Airbus made recently about the grave concerns because of the uncertainty from the UK Government, because we don't know what's going to happen post Brexit. Now, the truth is that many companies throughout north-east Wales, and throughout Wales, depend on the movement of people and goods, or wings of planes, around the place, day by day. And if we do put up barriers to that, that is going to cause a great problem. For us as a college, of course, the issue is that we are the ones who offer the apprenticeships for all of these companies. So, if they're not there and if there is a threat to companies, that is going to have a bad influence on the Welsh economy, and also, as I said on the radio at the time, we would lose over 50 jobs in the college—good jobs, people who have good influences on young people—if we don't sort out that issue in terms of the companies.
Ac mi fyddai'r bobl ifanc yn colli'r cyfleoedd sydd yn dod gyda hynny i gyd.
And the young people would lose out on the opportunities that would come from that.
So, jest i grisialu, efallai—. Achos wrth wrando ar y chwarter awr cyntaf o'r sesiwn yma—'Nid oes gwerth i fyfyrwyr o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, nid ydym ni ddim gwahanol i gymdeithas yn gyffredinol o ran faint o staff sydd o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd'—mae rhywun yn dechrau meddwl, 'Wel, beth sydd yna i drafod?' Yn amlwg mae yna bethau. Ond jest i grisialu, felly, yr impact, mae'r impact fydd arnoch chi'n wahanol iawn i addysg uwch, oherwydd eich bod chi yn fwy yn ymwneud â'r ffocws galwedigaethol. Rydych chi'n fwy exposed i'r sectorau penodol hynny fydd yn cael eu heffeithio gan Brexit mewn modd, efallai, nad yw addysg uwch.
So, just to refine that, perhaps—. Because having listened to the first quarter of an hour of the session—'There is no worth to students from the EU, we're not different to society in general in terms of how many staff we have coming from the EU'—you start to wonder what there is to discuss. Obviously, there's a lot. But just to refine that, the impact on you would be very different to higher education, because you're more involved with vocational training. You're more exposed to specific sectors that will be affected by Brexit in a way that, perhaps, higher education isn't.
Yn sicr, ac maen nhw'n reit bwysig i economi Cymru—dyna'r peth. Ac rydw i'n credu, o ran yr ateb ynglŷn ag Erasmus yn gynharach, a oedd yn dangos yr ystadegau, y rhifau go fach, mae'n rhan bwysig o beth rydym ni'n gwneud, ond mae'n rhan fach. Ond rwyt ti wedi bwrw'r hoelen ar ei phen. O safbwynt beth rydym ni'n ei wneud, yr impact ar swyddi, yr economi a chymunedau dros Gymru, mae dylanwad mawr fanna, achos mae'r rhan fwyaf o bobl sy'n gweithio ar y lefel yna yn gweithio mewn ffermydd, mewn ffatrioedd ac ati, a dyna'r gwir amdani o fewn economi Cymru.
Certainly, and they are important to the Welsh economy—that's the other thing. And I think, in terms of the earlier answer on Erasmus, which showed the statistics, yes, they were small numbers, but they're important. But you've hit the nail on the head. In terms of what we do, it's the impact on jobs and the economy and on communities throughout Wales. There's going to be a huge impact there, because many people working at that level are working on farms, in factories and so forth, and that's the case when we're looking at the Welsh economy.
So pa fath o gynllunio sy'n digwydd ar hyn o bryd? A oes yna rhyw fath o gynllunio? A ydych chi'n cynllunio senarios gwahanol? Oherwydd rydw i'n gwybod bod pawb mewn rhyw fath o hiatus ar hyn o bryd, ond y realiti yw bod y cloc yn ticio ac rydw i'n siŵr eich bod chi ddim eisiau cyrraedd y pwynt ym mis Mawrth blwyddyn nesaf lle rydych chi'n sylweddoli, 'O, reit, mae rhywbeth yn digwydd go iawn.' A ydych chi'n edrych ar beth allwch chi ei wneud nawr i drio rheoli rhai o'r risgiau yma?
So what kind of planning is going on at present? Is there any kind of planning? Are you planning for different scenarios? Because I know that everybody is in some sort of hiatus at the moment, but the reality is that the clock is ticking and I'm sure that you don't want to reach a point in March next year where you realise, 'Oh right, something is really happening.' Are you looking at what you can do now to try and mitigate some of the risks?
Os caf i ymateb yn gyntaf, efallai. Mae'n amhosib i ni, yn unigol fel colegau, sortio rhai o'r pethau yma allan, ond y ffordd rydym ni'n trio'i wneud e—neu y ffordd rydw i fel unigolyn yn trio'i wneud e—ydy trwy'r gwaith rydw i'n ei wneud efo amryw o sefydliadau, er enghraifft Cyswllt Ffermio—gweithio efo nhw er mwyn lobïo yn y ffordd yna—gweithio efo CBI Cymru, gweithio, wrth gwrs, efo ColegauCymru hefyd, ac hefyd, wrth gwrs, fel rhan o grŵp cynghori Llywodraeth Cymru ar Ewrop. Ond beth mae'n teimlo fel ar y foment ydy bod yr holl fusnes—politics y peth—mae hynny'n dal popeth i fyny, a dyna'r broblem, rydw i'n credu. Mae pawb jest yn aros am ryw sicrwydd er mwyn eu galluogi nhw i ffeindio'r ffordd ymlaen. Mae busnesau'n methu â gweithio o gwbl os nad ydyn nhw'n gwybod beth sy'n mynd i ddigwydd mewn blwyddyn neu ddwy flynedd i nawr, ac mae'n rhaid i gwmnïau mawr, yn enwedig rheini sy'n gweithio dros Ewrop, dal i wneud penderfyniadau o ddydd i ddydd ar fuddsoddiadau am y tymor hir. Nid yw hynny ddim yn mynd i aros heddiw, yfory neu dros y misoedd nesaf jest oherwydd ein bod ni heb sortio pethau allan. Y pryder sydd gen i yw efallai nad ydym ni'n teimlo impact mawr ar y foment, ond bydd yr impact yn dod mewn rhyw bum neu 10 neu 15 mlynedd, ac adeg hynny, byddwn ni'n gweld impact negyddol os nad ydym ni rili yn dal y pwysau ymlaen ar y foment.
If I may answer to begin with. I think that it's impossible for us as colleges individually to sort out some of these things, but what we're trying to do—and what I'm trying to do as an individual—is through the work that I undertake with many organisations such as Farming Connect—working with them in order to lobby in that regard—working with CBI Wales and working with CollegesWales, of course, as well, and as part of the ministerial advisory group for the Welsh Government on European issues. But it feels at present that all of this—all the politics of this—is holding everything back, and that's the problem, I think. Everyone is just waiting for some certainty to enable them to find the way forward. Business can't work or can't do anything because they don't know what's going to happen in a year or two from now, and the large companies, they need—particularly those that work throughout Europe—they still need to make decisions and these are daily decisions in terms of long-term investments. Those decisions can't wait. You can't just wait today, next week, or the month after. These companies can't wait because we haven't sorted things out. So, my concern is we may not be feeling a large impact now, but the impact will come in some five, 10 or 15 years, and that is when we will see the negative impact if we don't really put the pressure on now.
It's difficult to make concrete plans for all the reasons David has just mentioned, but we have prioritised those sectors that are most likely to be hit by workforce changes post Brexit, and they are construction, health and social care, hospitality including tourism, and agriculture. So, I think all organisations, especially through the work-based learning arena, will be prioritising those sectors to make sure that there is no dip and skills shortage pending the outcome of whatever happens next.
Beth rydym ni'n ei wneud ydy sicrhau ein bod ni'n parhau efo trafodaethau i ddweud bod Cymru ar agor i wneud busnes a'n bod ni eisiau parhau yn rhan o'r trafodaethau yma. Ond rydym ni yn gweld ychydig bach o nerfusrwydd o gwmpas ein cynnwys ni mewn prosiectau yn y dyfodol, neu gynnwys Cymru yn rhai o'r cynlluniau tymor hir. Mae meincnodi rhyngwladol yn flaenoriaeth gan Lywodraeth Cymru i ni fel sector addysg bellach, ac felly mae hwn jest yn ychwanegu rhyw rwystr arall o geisio gwneud ein gorau glas i Gymru, i'n dysgwyr ac i'n cyflogwyr ni yma. Mae EQAVET—fe wnaethom ni gyffwrdd ar hwn—. Rydw i'n gwybod na fedrwn ni ddim sôn am ymchwil ac arloesedd fel mae'r prifysgolion yn ei wneud, ond rydym ni'n gwneud ein rhan ni o hynny ac mae'r pot o arian EQAVET wedi ein galluogi ni i weithio gyda phum gwlad arall ar beth mae sgiliau lefel uwch yn golygu i’r gymuned ac i’r economi. Felly, bydd yna adroddiad yn cael ei gyhoeddi’r flwyddyn nesaf ar hynny. So, mae yna gyfleoedd eraill sydd efallai ar sgêl llai, ond maen nhw’n golygu cymaint inni fel sector colegau addysg bellach.
What we're doing is ensuring that we continue with the discussions to show that Wales is open for business and that we want to continue as part of those discussions. But we do see some nervousness around our involvement in projects in the future, and including Wales in some of the plans for the long term. So, benchmarking, internationally, is a priority from the Welsh Government for us as a further education sector and this just adds another barrier in trying to do our best for Wales, for our learners and for our employers here. The European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training—we've touched on this—. I know we can't talk about research and innovation as the universities do, but we do play our part in that and the pot of EQAVET money has allowed us to work with five other countries on what the higher skills mean for the community and the economy. So, the report will be published next year on that. There are other opportunities that may be on a lower scale, but they mean that much more to us a further education sector.
So, byddai’n deg i ddweud nad oes asesiad impact swyddogol wedi’i wneud ar effaith Brexit ar ddysgwyr a’u cyflogadwyedd nhw, nid gennych chi na gan y Llywodraeth, yn fwy na’ch bod chi’n ymwybodol o’r darlun ehangach. Ond does neb wedi actually eistedd lawr a gwneud asesiad ffurfiol.
So, it would be fair to say that no official impact assessment has been undertaken of the impact of Brexit on learners and their employability, not by you or by the Government, other than you being aware of the broader picture. Nobody's actually sat down and carried out a formal assessment.
Mae’r adroddiad wnaethom ni nôl yn 2016 sydd wedi'i gyhoeddi rili yn edrych ar yr arian a’r gyllideb, ac wedyn, wrth gwrs, mae hynny’n cael knock-on effect ar y dysgwyr o ran cyflogadwyedd a chyfleoedd fel Erasmus+. Mae i gyd am gyfleoedd, ond nid oes dim byd ers hynny. Ond rwyf yn meddwl bod yna le rŵan, fel dywedodd Mike a David, i eistedd lawr a dechrau gwneud rhyw scenario planning a sicrhau ein bod ni’n symud pethau ymlaen, achos rŷm ni’n frwd i ffeindio’r atebion ac nid ffocysu ar y cwyno a’r problemau.
The report that we did publish back in 2016 really looked at the funding and the budget, and so that has a knock-on effect on learners in terms of employability and the opportunities such as Erasmus+. It's all about opportunities, but nothing since then. But I do think that there is room now, as Mike and David said, to sit down and start doing some scenario planning and ensure that we move things forward, because we are enthusiastic to find solutions and not just focus on complaints and problems.
If I can just explain what I mean. In terms of scenario planning, we've been doing that as an institution, but it's fairly irresponsible to scenario plan around things you don't know. So, you've got to put known variables, not unknown variables in.
So, we know that if, for example, there's a proportional reduction in funding for apprenticeships, if there is for European social funded projects, if we can't access the UK-based scheme, then there's an income in that; we've worked that through. So, what are we going to do then to fill that gap? Because we're responsible for communities, and also for a lot of people who pay their mortgages. What we just simply can't do is sit in Cardiff, looking out the window, hoping everything's going to be okay. That's why we've attacked China, and that's why we've attacked commercial income.
Next year, our commercial income, without China, is in excess of £10.2 million. We need to make sure we provide provision in our business to support our people as well as our communities. So, that's the focus of our scenario planning.
I'm not sure about 'attacking China', but there we are. Not in this current climate, I tell you. [Laughter.] But I know what you mean.
My apologies for the use of that word.
Diolch yn fawr, Chair. I was just interested in what you said about skills shortages, and you mentioned areas where I think we're all aware that there's quite a high percentage of European Union workers at the moment. So, what exactly does your contingency planning look like? What are the actual steps you're taking? Is it about estimating a figure of those EU workers in those particular industries who are likely to leave the UK post Brexit, and then providing more training places in proportion, or—?
No. That would be their own workforce planning, and we wouldn't have any statistics to show whether those we've already trained are likely to leave the country or not, in all honesty. What we do is that we stick to the delivery of work-based learning, in particular, in priority areas to make sure that there's a consistent and ready workforce available.
In terms of financial planning as an organisation, that's very different in terms of our other projects. And not to put too fine a point on it, we deal with these projects where the costs would have to be demountable if the project funding were to come to cessation. So, on the ground, the learners I spoke about earlier wouldn't get that additional support and as a result of that, they would most likely become NEET, because that's what our project set out to counter. So—.
Okay. So, is there another aspect to it then, in terms of the possibility of skills shortages and work-based learning, and how colleges might be working with employers to understand local skills needs post Brexit?
I can come in on that one. I think the concern is that, at the moment, in terms of post-16, 16 to 19, level 3 FE, sixth-form provision or apprenticeships in Wales, within reason, there's enough funding and there are enough people out there for people to do what they want, within reason, and perhaps sometimes they're not getting the guidance, for whatever reason, to do the right things. Clearly, the Welsh Government are now bringing in these regional skills partnerships that are quite a good idea in terms of trying to get a little bit more of a demand-led, informed position on the ground within a region. But, I think it's really important to look at whether they are taking into account the issue that you picked up on, which is what is going to happen post Brexit. Now, clearly, there's the uncertainty around what's going to happen, and so what the impact is going to be, but I think it's fair to say that there's going to be some impact.
But we've also got, in certain parts of the country, as well as the impact of people leaving the UK, there's also the demography, for example, in north-east Wales, where the number of 16-year-olds has been dropping for the last four years, and it still hasn't hit the bottom. So, there's a real issue there about supply and demand. So, I think it's more important than ever that we try and signpost young people and older people, in terms of upskilling, into the right jobs. But that's easier said that done, because the reality is that we might talk about the foundation economy and some of the jobs in there that are done by people from the mainland EU, but a lot of people from the UK don't want to do those jobs or there's a culture of not doing them. So, I think we need to look at maybe more innovative ways that incentivise providers and people to go into the sectors where we know we're going to have shortages. But that needs joined-up planning between providers, regional planning, Welsh Government and so on. I'm picking up on your point and the point that Llyr made earlier on, I think. I'm certainly not aware of a coherent enough plan to look at that issue at the moment.
Ar y mater cymwysterau, buaswn i'n licio codi ei fod yn bwysig bod cymwysterau Cymru yn teithio a'u bod nhw'n cael eu hadnabod a'u cydnabod dros y ffin, ond hefyd yn rhyngwladol. Mae gennym ni'r fframwaith credydau a chymwysterau Cymru a dyna yw fframwaith cymwysterau Cymru, ond rydym eisiau sicrhau ein bod ni'n cyd-fynd a bod y cymwysterau yna yn cyfateb â'r EQF—yr European qualifications framework—er mwyn i'n dysgwyr ni allu teithio a bod eu cymwysterau yn cael eu cydnabod wrth iddyn nhw chwilio am waith dramor, neu wrth inni ddenu gweithiwyr i ddod i weithio i Gymru hefyd. So, mae yna ddarn o waith efallai o ran sicrhau ein bod ni'n dysgu'r cymwysterau cywir i'n dysgwyr ni hefyd.
On the issue of qualifications, I would like to raise that it's important that Welsh qualifications travel and that they are acknowledged and recognised across the border, but also internationally. So, we have the credit and qualifications framework for Wales and that's the framework for qualifications in Wales, but we'd like to ensure that we align and that those qualifications actually correspond to the European qualifications framework, so that our learners can travel and so that their qualifications are recognised when they look for work overseas, or as we attract workers to work to in Wales also. So, there's a further piece of work to be done in terms of ensuring that we're teaching our learners the right qualifications.
Okay. Are there any other questions from Members? No. Okay. Can I thank you all very much for attending and for answering our questions? You'll be sent a transcript to check for accuracy in due course, but thank you for your time—we do appreciate it.
Item 4 then is papers to note. There is quite a long list of papers: nine in total. Are Members happy to note them en bloc? If I could just draw the committee's attention to paper to note 9, which is a letter from the Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee to the chief executive of Public Health Wales. That follows a scrutiny session with them last week, where a number of issues, relevant to this committee, were picked up as part of the session, and we'll be copied into the response in due course. Is everyone happy to note those? Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 5 then. Can I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting? Are Members content? Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:33.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:33.