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Outgoing OU in Wales director calls for university funding system to be revolutionised

Louise Casella giving a speech

On Monday 22 May, outgoing Open University (OU) in Wales director Louise Casella delivered a keynote speech at a special event to discuss the future of higher education in Wales. 

Citizen:Student – Delivering tertiary education for Wales’ future needs, was organised by the OU in Wales to explore the Welsh Government’s ‘students as citizens’ agenda and discuss how the university sector could be reimagined for the coming years. 

In the speech, Louise Casella warned against the pitfalls of measuring the value of universities only by looking at economic outcomes for students. She said much more attention should be given to the social benefits of education, and called on the forthcoming Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER) to revolutionise how universities in Wales are funded.

Jeremy Miles giving a speech

She was joined by Minster for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS, who set out more detail on the Welsh Government’s ‘students as citizens’ agenda.

In his address, the Minister set out his view that education is the best economic and social justice policy, and outlined how the creation of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research, whose first statutory duty will be to promote lifelong learning, is itself a disruption to the status quo.

The Minister also confirmed that work is underway to explore how students can be enabled to borrow more money to fund part-time study.

Speaking at the event, Louise Casella, Director of The Open University in Wales, said:

“If our vision for higher education is a system which supports communities and produces learners who contribute to society, the question we need urgently to answer is: how should we structure that system so that people can come and go, give and take, throughout the whole of their lives, in a way that works for them?

Panel of speakers having a discussion at event

“The answer is a much more flexible, much more responsive, much more adaptive funding system.

“One in which no mode or method of delivery is the poor relation.

“One which delivers equity, rather than inequity, and which allows institutions to work together to deliver for students and citizens alike the kind of learning opportunities they so dearly want.

“And one which encourages us to think radically about what we offer.”

Between both speeches, a panel of education specialists, chaired by former Assembly Member Nerys Evans, answered questions from the audience. They included: 

  • Louise Casella, director of the OU in Wales
  • David Kernohan, deputy editor of WonkHE
  • David Hagendyk, chief executive of ColegauCymru
  • Ceri Doyle, chief executive of Newport City Homes

This was Louise Casella’s last public speech as director of The Open University in Wales, following her announcement earlier in the year that she will retire in June.

During his remarks, the Minister paid tribute to Mrs Casella’s leadership of The Open University in Wales during the last five years, and the contributions she has made to Welsh public life throughout her career.

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