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.
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 Education Minister, Huw Lewis, is to announce what he calls a 'wide-ranging review' of universities and student tuition fees. It comes amid concerns that the Welsh Government's policy of capping the amount students who live in Wales pay is unaffordable in the long term.
At the moment, the Welsh Government pays £5425 of the £9000 per year fee for students who live here in Wales. There have been concerns that the policy is affecting the finances of universities here whilst subsidising universities in England.
In a speech at Cardiff University tonight, Huw Lewis, is also due to say he wants 'to widen access' to higher education. He's expected to say:
In my view we should be looking, in a more sustained, structured and determined way, at the relationships universities have with their communities to raise expectations and support achievement on the part of individuals who might never have seen themselves as 'university material'.
We’ve put in place what we believe is the most equitable student finance system we’ve ever had in Wales. It’s our firm belief that access to higher education should be on the basis of the individual’s potential to benefit, and not on the basis of what they can afford to pay.
Our tuition fees policy is popular, affordable and sustainable and will be in place for the lifetime of this government, but now seems the right time for us to take stock and to consider the future in the light of the rapid and unpredictable change facing the sector.
I will announce further details of the review soon, but my priorities for the review are widening access – we need to ensure that any system has widening access as its core objective, is progressive and equitable; supporting the skill needs of Wales; and strengthening part-time and postgraduate HE in Wales.
Teaching union NASUWT says today should be about celebrating and valuing the results achieved by pupils.
These results are what they are and ultimately it is their value to pupils that counts and not their value to the system. The achievements and success of our young people should be celebrated, not diminished or devalued.
There will be many pupils who will have exceeded expectations in achieving, say a D or E grade, but because of the obsession with A* to C grades their hard work and the commitment of their teachers is forgotten about.
– Rex Phillips, NASUWT
The union added: "With widening differences between the qualifications system in England and Wales, it is clear that comparison with grades across the UK is becoming increasingly challenging."
Education Minister Huw Lewis has congratulated students across Wales, saying today's GCSE results are 'encouraging'.
Figures show Wales is still lagging behind England and Northern Ireland - but the gulf has narrowed.
Despite rigorous tests, our students' performance in GCSEs shows that the overall pass rate remains stable at a high 98.7%, with passes at A*-C at 65.7% which is encouraging.
Our work to build on the rigour of qualifications remains a key element of our agenda to raise standards in Welsh education. Through the Review of Qualifications we've listened to employers and higher education about the skills they want learners to acquire. We have listened to their views and made a commitment to keeping and strengthening GCSEs in Wales.