The Aberystwyth-Bangor Strategic Alliance
Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities have had an interesting and evolving relationship ever since their establishment in the late 19th century. Both institutions are strongly rooted in their communities, and emerged from the concerted drive to provide higher education opportunities for the people of Wales in the 1870s and 1880s – when universities existed in England, Scotland and Ireland, but not in Wales.
Both institutions struggled against the odds in their early years, but subsequently developed and expanded at a similar rate. Although there are similarities in the academic programmes, there are also distinctive specialisms in each university (Information Studies and International Politics in Aberystwyth, for example, or Ocean Sciences and Electronic Engineering at Bangor). Both universities gained degree-awarding powers and independent university status in 2007 (previously they had been constituent institutions of the federal University of Wales).
There have been many personal connections between the two institutions. Two prominent Bangor graduates who served as Professors at Bangor – Thomas Parry and Derec Llwyd Morgan – later became Principal or Vice-Chancellor in Aberystwyth (in the 1960s and 2000s respectively); an Aberystwyth graduate, Sir Williams Mars-Jones, served as President of Bangor University (1982-94), while Lord Cledwyn, the former MP for Anglesey and Secretary of State for Wales, served as President of both Abrerystwyth and Bangor Universities (in Aberystwyth from 1977-85, and in Bangor from 1995-2000). Moreover, many members of staff over the years – including senior staff – have frequently moved between the two institutions.
The two universities have unquestionably been rivals, but they have also co-operated fruitfully. In the 1980s, as funding for higher education was dramatically reduced, major subject rationalisation (under the auspices of the then federal University of Wales) saw the closure of Physics and Drama from Bangor (but their concentration in Aberystwyth), and the withdrawal of Chemistry and Music at Aberystwyth (and their concentration in Bangor).
In 2002, in the context of the Welsh Government’s policy of ‘reconfiguration & collaboration’ in the Welsh university sector, the two institutions began to meet regularly at a senior level to discuss greater collaboration. A Memorandum of Understanding between Aberystwyth and Bangor, pledging collaboration where possible in academic matters, administrative services and in Welsh medium teaching, was signed by the then Vice-Chancellors and Registrars.
In 2005/6, following the establishment of a Reconfiguration & Collaboration Fund by HEFCW, the two institutions bid successfully for funding of £11M over five years to proceed with a Research & Enterprise Partnership (see below). Following the conclusion of this project, Aberystwyth and Bangor committed themselves to a deeper and wider partnership by signing a Strategic Alliance in December 2011.