Plaid Cymru reaction to Education Minister Huw Lewis' latest announcement on higher education review.
Education Minister Huw Lewis has signalled a major review into how higher education in Wales is funded will report back in 2015. Previously, he said the panel, led by Sir Ian Diamond, needed until 2016 to consider all the issues.
The Minister said the cross-party review will focus on access and long term financial sustainability. Currently Welsh students pay £3500 in fees, with the Welsh Government paying the rest, wherever in the UK they study. But, opponents say only those who stay in Wales should receive support.
The Welsh Government is under fire for leaving thousands of young people in limbo over the future of student grants.
The government has announced a major review of how it funds higher education, amid concerns that the current system is unsustainable.
But Ministers admit that they won't have the results until after the next Welsh elections in 2016, as Tom Sheldrick reports.
Plaid Cymru's Education spokesman says his party wants to engage with the review of higher education funding and student finance announced by the Education Minister. But Simon Thomas says the review should report before the Welsh Election in 2016 and not after it as currently planned.
And he rejected the suggestion that by engaging with it, Plaid is allowing Labour to put off making its own policy clear until after the election.
Opposition parties have criticised the timing of the Higher Education Review announced by Huw Lewis. It's due to report back in late 2016, after the next Welsh election. Opponents say that means Labour could go into that election without a clear policy on tuition fees.
I asked the Education Minister if the timing was a deliberate attempt to put off making difficult decisions until after the election in May 2016.
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies says the newly-announced review of Higher Education Funding is an admission that it's current policy is 'unaffordable.'
He told me 'it can't be right, it can't be just' that children from wealthier families get the same level of support as those from poorer families.
Plaid Cymru's Education Spokesman has welcomed the Education Minister's announcement of review into the funding of universities and student finances. But Simon Thomas says the review is an attempt to deal with 'shortcomings' in the Welsh Government's policy.
The Education Minister’s decision to set up a Commission to review the Higher Education funding policy is an admission that the current policy is unsustainable and it is welcome that the Minister is seeking to address its shortcomings.
However, the remit and timetable for the Commission’s reporting should be determined by its chair and panel. A Commission that does not report until after the next election will be seen as saying as much about the Minister’s reluctance to engage with his own party on reform as it does about anything else.
– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru Education spokesperson
Nevertheless, if this is a genuine cross party commission we will play our part fully but we will continue to develop and scrutinise our own policies.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Spokesman Aled Roberts says the newly-announced review into Higher Education in Wales should ask some fundamental questions such as whether or not universities should continue to focus on 18-21 year old undergraduates in the future.
Education Minister Huw Lewis has faced intense questioning following his announcement of a review of university funding and student finance. Click here for more details of the review.
Opponents say the Welsh Government's current policy of paying most of the tuition fees for students living in Wales is unaffordable. I asked Huw Lewis if his decision to hold a review was an admission that they're right.
The Welsh Conservatives has issued its response to the news that the Education Minister is to set up a review into higher education and student finance. Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns says:
While this announcement is being dressed up as a wider review of HE funding, it looks like wolf’s clothing for scrapping Labour’s unsustainable £3.6billion tuition fees policy, which had been due to run for nine years.
Labour’s tuition fee subsidy has sent tens of millions of pounds of Welsh Government funding to universities outside of Wales at a time when Welsh universities should be aiming to compete on the world stage.
– Angela Burns AM, Shadow Education Minister
Subsidising student fees, which aren’t paid upfront anyway, and denying proper funding to Welsh universities, putting them under considerable financial pressure, was an expensive gimmick and totally the wrong approach.
Figures show the tuition fee subsidy has completely failed to improve access to higher education for young people from more deprived communities so it is time to consider other ways to improve access and invest in higher education.