NEWPORT'S university says there should be agreement on a proposed merger with Cardiff's Metropolitan University and the University of Glamorgan, rather than the bodies being forced into it.

The University of Wales, Newport, made the statement yesterday after Barbara Wilding, chairwoman of the board of governors at Cardiff Metropolitan University, threatened legal action if her university is forced into the deal.

Earlier this month education minister Leighton Andrews announced a consultation into proposals to merge Cardiff Metropolitan, formerly UWIC, with the University of Wales, Newport, and the University of Glamorgan.

But Ms Wilding said that her university's governors cannot make an informed decision without a detailed business plan.

She said she'd seen no evidence on the need for the merger.

A spokesman for the University of Wales, Newport, said: “While Cardiff Metropolitan’s position is a matter for them, we believe that it would be far better if all parties could reach agreement on the way forward rather than anyone being forced into a new arrangement."

He said that Newport has stated all along that the best way of getting past the historical hangover and mistrust caused by previous merger discussions is through the creation of a new, not merged, institution for South East Wales.

Mr Andrews said earlier this month that the three individual institutions would be better be able to respond to the challenges faced by higher education, and would be able to reach a wider audience, as one institution.

The minister has the power to force the proposal through, although he has said he'd prefer a voluntary merger.

EDITORIAL COMMMENT: Merger case unconvincing

WE find ourselves in almost complete agreement with the chairman of governors of Cardiff Metropolitan University, Barbara Wilding, who is threatening court action against the proposed ‘merger’ with the University of Wales, Newport and the University of Glamorgan.

Ms Wilding, former chief constable of South Wales Police, says she has seen no evidence yet of the need for this merger. Neither have we.

We are yet to hear a convincing case from Leighton Andrews, the education minister, as to why the link-up would be beneficial.

All we have heard is the unsubstantiated claim that the so-called super university would give Wales a competitive edge against other institutions throughout the UK.

We recognise that UWN has submitted a plan for a new university, made up of the three current institutions, but we are not at all certain that this would be better for the city of Newport and greater Gwent than the status quo.

Of course the minister has the purse strings and can force a merger, but Ms Wilding, says her university (formerly UWIC) will fight it through the courts unless the Assembly government can give clear evidence of the benefits it would create.

We share her doubts and believe that Leighton Andrews must put forward a more specific and convincing case for the merger or else the whole scenario could descend into chaos and do immense harm to the reputation of the university establishment in Wales.