The Further & Higher Education (Wales) Bill – part 2: Wales plays catch-up

The consultation document issued by the Welsh Assembly Government on 2 July 2012 contains a number of proposals in relation to FE in Wales which will have a very familiar ring to anyone involved in FE in England. 

In essence, WAG is – rather belatedly- proposing to remove certain restrictions and controls on FE colleges in Wales in response to the ONS decision to reclassify colleges as part of central government.

However, unlike in England where one section dealing with FE was hastily added into the Education Bill as it went through Parliament, there will be no rushing into things for WAG.  Instead, the consultation document asks for responses by 24 September, and proposes that the changes to the regulation of colleges will not come into force until 2014/15. 

Although no reference is made in the consultation document to the Education Act 2011 and the changes which took effect for English colleges in April, WAG’s proposals are identical to those.  In summary, colleges will be able to:

·         amend their Instrument & Articles, subject to compliance with certain minimum requirements

·         borrow without seeking WAG consent

·         deliver publicly-funded education through a company without seeking WAG consent

·         dissolve themselves and transfer their assets and liabilities to a third party

WAG will retain its powers of intervention, other than the power to appoint up to two members of a college’s governing body.  It will also have a new power to require a college to dissolve itself, in addition to its existing power to require a college to enter into collaboration arrangements.

It can be assumed that Welsh colleges will be broadly in favour of the proposals, which after all only bring them into line with their English counterparts.  However, it will be interesting to see what things look like in 2014/15, when English colleges will have had these ‘freedoms’ for over two years. 

The consultation document also contains details of other policy initiatives affecting FE in Wales, including the proposed simplification of the planning and funding regime (to take effect from 2013/14), and the ongoing review of qualifications for 14-19 year olds.  In another rather familiar proposal, WAG is to work alongside Colegau Cymru to develop a Code of Governance for the Welsh FE sector.  WAG must be hoping for a slightly more positive reception to this proposal than the fairly lukewarm response by English colleges to the Foundation Code of Governance. 

Joanna Forbes

Senior Associate Solicitor

Education Team

For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP

DD: 0800 763 1310

M: 07725 241552

F: 0800 763 1710

International DD: +44 870 763 1310




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