A 75% DROP in student numbers in Newport since 2010 has made the city a “poor man’s Pontypridd” when it comes to higher education, according to the council’s opposition leader.
Matthew Evans said Newport’s 2,500-strong student community pales in comparison to nearby Cardiff, and the city’s wider economy is missing out as a result.
“A vibrant live-in student population is vital for the local economy, and we need the university to step up to the plate and invest in the city,” Cllr Evans said.
The University of South Wales (USW) said it was committed to Newport and was “continuing to develop our partnerships and connections within the city”.
Figures show USW registered 2,608 people studying in Newport in 2022, and while there has been some growth in the past three years – up from 2,116 students in 2020 and 2,432 a year later – current enrolment is a long way shy of the reported roughly 10,000 learners at the University of Wales, Newport in 2010/11.
That year saw the opening of the Newport City Campus, on Usk Way, and the past decade has been one of significant change for higher education in Newport – through the 2013 merger with USW and the 2016 closure of the city’s main campus, in Caerleon.
Newport City Council figures, published via a Freedom of Information Act request to Conservative campaigner Michael Enea, also show the local authority paid £10 million towards the completion of the £40m Usk Way campus.
Cllr Evans, leader of the Conservatives in the council chamber, criticised the “shocking” drop in student numbers since 2010.
He said the £10m investment in the city centre campus was made “with promises to expand, which hasn’t happened”.
Cllr Evans added that a council scrutiny committee, of which he is a member, had invited USW “to come along and explain their future plans, but sadly to no avail at the moment”.
Responding to Cllr Evans’ comments, a spokesperson for USW said the university was “committed to providing our students, colleagues, and partners with the very best experience at our Newport Campus”.
They said the “fantastic foundations” at the campus had meant USW could begin a “multi-million project to enhance our internal spaces… that reflect our current and future learning and teaching delivery and supports a modern flexible working environment, with digital delivery and innovation at the heart of this”.
Addressing the changes in student numbers since 2010, the USW spokesperson said there had been “planned growth” at the campus “and this is something that we continue to work towards in a challenging higher education environment”.
The campus offers a “range of professional, undergraduate, and postgraduate qualifications available with flexible options for study”, as well as partnerships with businesses and community groups in an “inclusive environment”.
“We recognise that we have more than just a role of offering education, and truly value the rich partnership working that takes place and look forward to continuing to deliver for the city and wider region,” the USW spokesperson added.
Newport City Council was also approached for comment.