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Merger with brains and beauty; & COMMENT DEBATE YOUR LETTERS TO THE NATIONAL NEWSPAPER OF WALES.

* SIR - In reading the correspondence received from Olwen Moseley, Principal Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU) (Letters, July 24), I am reminded of the apocryphal story of the meeting between Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein.

The starlet was said to have considered aloud the possibility that their joint offspring might have her good looks and the scientist's intellect.

I understand the anxiety that some have regarding the proposed union of CMU, the University of Glamorgan (UoG) and the University of Wales Newport (UWN). However, fears that a "super-university" would have the looks of Einstein and none of his intelligence may be misplaced.

I know many staff respect the relative merits of the other institutions: Both UWN and CMU have areas of comparative strength, the latter being reflected by Cardiff Metropolitan's ranking. Glamorgan, however, has seen an increase in student recruitment, up 43% since 2008 and 93% of students are in work or further study within six months of graduation. That is the top performance in Wales and is within the UK top 10.

I also recognise the allusion to the writings of business consultant Tom Peters in which he says that "seven out of 10 mergers destroy value". Such literature, however, would also identify such instances as being the result of a failure to communicate clearly, poor change-management and an inability to identify and share best practice.

It is not the inevitable conclusion of a potential merger as Olwen Moseley suggests, nor would it necessarily result in the creation of a monolithic institution.

If the political motivation for the merger is to yield efficiencies for the public purse, this need not be negative. This is particularly the case if it is also allied to the pursuit of excellence.

Although I am sympathetic to the suggestion that a merger limits student choice, in an era in which home students are assuming greater personal liability for the cost of their education, attempts to control costs and stabilise fees are challenges that institutions should consider facing together.

There is also an ever-changing global market for excellence in research, teaching and academic standards; by 2020 the OECD estimates that 40% of new graduates will be from India and China alone.

A failure to pursue a closer union for the benefit of both home and overseas students may cost all Welsh universities dearly.

CMU, UoG and UWN have far more in common than Monroe and Einstein. A potential union might yet look good and still have a fine brain.

MIKE BOBBETT Newport
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 27, 2012
Words:417
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