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Lib Dems: Questions over Glyndwr Uni not answered

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Aled Roberts has said important questions about alleged visa fraud involving Glyndwr University have not been answered.

We need to establish whether there is a wider problem in the sector as a whole, particularly with regard to any satellite campuses outside Wales.

Staff, students and everyone involved in the sector will want to know how this situation has come about and what is being done to assist those concerned.

Whilst the issue of student visas is a matter for the UK Government, funding of university places remains very much the responsibility of the Welsh Minister and I was hoping that today the Minister could provide me with reassurance.

Unfortunately, that was not the case and I have asked the Minister for a meeting with him and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to discuss the way forward.

Questions also need to be answered as to why issues regarding English language ability were not picked up during quality assurance checks by the QAA.

– Aled Roberts, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson

Plaid Cymru: Are other Welsh universities affected?

Plaid Cymru education spokesperson Simon Thomas said he is concerned that the Education Minister "could not tell me today whether any other Welsh university could be affected by similar visa failures and the lack of clarity on quality assurance", after Glyndwr University was implicated.

Clearly, if several hundred or more overseas students did not pass English language proficiency tests properly then you would assume their lack of English would be picked up by the quality assurance regime which is the responsibility of HEFCW and the university itself.

This is very troubling. Roughly 3,040 of Glyndwr's 8,800 students are from non-EU countries overseas. This means it is a considerable stream of funding. This is a concern both for the university and for thousands of students studying at the university.

– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru education spokesman

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Minister launches investigation into Glyndwr Uni visas

The Education Minister has said has asked the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to look into Glyndwr University's involvement in alleged student visa fraud - and "wider issues that may be raised by this case."

Huw Lewis said he was frustrated as the Home Office had not warned him of the news.

The North Wales institution has had its right to recruit overseas students suspended, after an investigation into cheating on English language tests, implicating a number of universities and colleges around the UK.

Read More: Glyndwr University has highly-trusted sponsor status suspended

Huw Lewis told Assembly Members the news "has potentially serious implications - not just for the institution - but for the reputation of the Welsh higher education sector as a whole".

He said he has already asked HEFCW to look into it, and will be meeting the body's chair and chief executive on 1 July "to take stock."

Academics union calls for Glyndwr Uni resignations

The University and College Union has again called for the resignation of the leadership at Glyndwr University, after the North Wales institution was suspended from recruiting overseas students.

At least 230 overseas students at Glyndwr have been identified as having 'invalid' English language test results.

Read More: Glyndwr University embroiled in student visa fraud investigation

Members of the academics union recently voted in favour of strike action, in a dispute over 60 potential job losses.

Union bosses have repeatedly called on the university's vice chancellor and chair of governors to resign because of what they describe as its "increasingly worrying financial situation."

Margaret Phelan from UCU Wales said today: "This latest announcement from the Home Office adds yet more weight to our members' calls for the university leadership to resign. It is clear that there are serious problems with how Glyndwr is being run and those in charge need to be held accountable."

Glyndwr Uni 'put in this position by external partners'

Glyndwr University says it is "deeply upset" to have had its licence to sponsor overseas students has been suspended.

A spokesperson for the North Wales university said: "To be put in this position by external partners is frustrating as Glyndwr University takes its responsibility as a Highly Trusted Sponsor very seriously."

The University is deeply upset that its sponsor licence has been suspended by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and is working with them to investigate the issues raised.

We have partnerships with a number of suppliers and are incredibly disappointed to have been the subject of any deception or activity that would put that licence under threat.

To be put in this position by external partners is frustrating as Glyndwr University takes its responsibility as a Highly Trusted Sponsor very seriously and is committed to supporting the continuing education of those genuine international students who demonstrate full compliance with their immigration requirements.

The University has been working closely with UKVI in a bid to improve its operations at the Elephant and Castle campus and will continue to do so. A new investigation team has been set-up and will respond to the points raised so that this issue can be resolved and the University’s licence reinstated.

– Glyndwr University spokesperson

Glyndwr University has right to sponsor foreign students suspended

Glyndwr University has had its right to sponsor foreign students suspended, after an investigation into fraud in the student visa system at a large number of universities and colleges around the UK.

Glyndwr University has had its highly-trusted sponsor status suspended.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said an inquiry had found evidence of 'organised criminality' over falsified English language tests, and up to 48,000 overseas students potentially may have falsely obtained English language certificates.

He said 230 students sponsored by North Wales' Glyndwr University have so far been identified as having 'invalid' test results - with another 120 being described as 'questionable.'

Mr Brokenshire said: "the Home Office suspended the highly-trusted sponsor status – that is the right to sponsor foreign students – of Glyndwr University."

"In addition, we have suspended the licences of 57 private further education colleges."

"We have told a further two universities – the University of Bedfordshire and the University of West London – that they are no longer allowed to sponsor new students pending further investigations which will decide whether they too should be suspended."

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Education Minister welcomes local authority progress

Education Minister Huw Lewis has welcomed the news that education services in Pembrokeshire and Anglesey have been brought out of special measures, while Powys has also been judged to have made progress.

I’m pleased to see that two local authorities have come out of special measures today and one out of significant improvement.

They’ve made positive progress and have improved, but they all must now work hard to ensure their improvements are sustainable to provide the best education possible for young people in their areas.

We’ve put in place an ambitious agenda to raise standards and performance across the board here in Wales – we owe our learners nothing less than the best.

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister

Education 'improvements' in Pembrokeshire & Anglesey

Education services in Pembrokeshire and Anglesey have come out of special measures, after follow-up inspections by the education watchdog Estyn found they had made improvements in how they run their schools.

Pembrokeshire Council has been criticised over its safeguarding of children, but Estyn judged it to have made 'excellent progress' in that area, part of 'sufficient progress' generally.

It said: "'Since October 2012 the authority has made excellent progress to transform arrangements for safeguarding in all its education services and schools."

Council leader James Adams welcomed the news as a significant milestone for the authority.

There are four remaining local education authorities in special measures. Credit: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire

On Anglesey, the watchdog says, since an inspection in May 2012, "significant change and improvement have taken place over a comparatively short period, within the schools service and corporately."

Estyn has also released a report on the local education authority in Powys today, which was not in special measures but had been labelled as 'in need of significant improvement'.

After follow-up monitoring, it has been judged to have made 'sufficient progress', through significant changes, a collaboration with Ceredigion, and improved transparency.

There are now four remaining local education authorities in special measures: Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

The status is used by Estyn when it considers schools fail to supply an acceptable level of education, and appear to lack the ability to approve.

Education Minister: Improvements in writing needed

Wales' Education Minister Huw Lewis says the good standards in English highlighted in Estyn's report are 'encouraging' - but conceded improvements need to be made.

We recognise that improvements need to be made, particularly in relation to standards of writing and the performance of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Estyn's comments about poor quality marking and feedback also need to be addressed. This is not good enough and has to change.

The challenge now is to raise standards across the board by taking on the recommendations in this report and by learning from those schools where best practice is being observed. Our Literacy Programme will help ensure that the encouraging improvements that have been observed continue in the years ahead.

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister

Reading and writing progress 'still too slow' in Wales

The Chief Inspector of Estyn says the rate of progress in reading and writing is 'still too slow' for pupils aged seven to 14 in Wales.

Reading and writing are the key to success in all areas of the curriculum. Despite the improving trend in the standards of English, the rate of progress is still too slow for 7-14 year-olds in Wales to catch-up with other areas of the UK. Inaccuracies in spelling, punctuation and grammar reduce the quality of writing and affect standards.

However, there are schools that have been successful in raising standards in English and I urge others to download the report and follow the lead outlined in the best practice case studies.

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– Ann Keane, Estyn Chief Inspector
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