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HE Review to report back before the next election

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.


Welsh Universities struggling to attract students says Vice Chancellor

The Vice Chancellor of Bangor University has told Assembly Members that universities in Wales are struggling to attract students from the rest of the UK and overseas.

John Hughes told the Finance Committee that institutions here 'are not in a position to invest' in the sort of facilities students who are now paying their own fees expect.

He said that's 'limited' the ability of Welsh universities to recruit students, something which they're 'already seeing in the figures.' The Finance Committee is looking into the impact of the Welsh Government's decision to subsidise the bulk of students' tuition fees.

Welsh Government must act on university funding fears say Lib Dems

Responding to further concerns about the impact of the Welsh Government's tuition fees policy on universities, Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Spokesman Aled Roberts says:

HEFCW have reaffirmed fears that the Welsh Labour Government’s current higher education funding system isn’t sustainable. It's particularly worrying that they predict the amount of money leaving Wales’ already underfunded institutions is set to increase further. The Education Minister has kicked the ball in the long grass by having his review into HE funding report back until after the Assembly elections. This means that we can’t expect to see a new system in place until at least 2019. That is simply too long a period to continue this unsustainable system.

For years the Welsh Labour Government has stuck its head in the sand over this issue. It must accept that mistakes have been made. Only this week we learnt that HEFCW had reservations about the estimated figures the Welsh Government put forward for this policy, but their advice was not sought. It is time the Welsh Labour Government started to listen and act more responsibly.

– Aled Roberts AM, Liberal Democrat


Figures reveal £50m Welsh Government money is going to English Universities

New figures reveal that £50m of Welsh Government money this year is going directly to universities elsewhere in the UK because of its tuition fees policy. The figure is revealed in evidence published by the Assembly's Finance Committee. You can read it here.

In its evidence, the organisation representing higher education institutions, Higher Education Wales, says universities face an 'uncertain' future as a result of the changes. And it warns that they pose a risk to 'higher-cost' courses like medicine and engineering. HEW says:

  • Changes to the way universities are funded 'poses risks' to provision of 'higher-cost' subjects like medicine and engineering, Welsh medium provision and ensuring more students from disadvantaged backgrounds attend university.
  • · Evidence from Wales and England shows that higher tuition fees of up to £9000 aren't putting off students from lower-income backgrounds 'with or without fee grant payments' like the Welsh subsidy
  • Universities can't take any further funding cuts 'without serious consequences' for their activities.

It follows a report earlier this week into the costs of the tuition fees policy and the launch of a Welsh Government review into the funding of Higher Education.

'Unsustainable' tuition fees policy should change - Plaid

Plaid Cymru's Education Spokesman Simon Thomas says the Wales Audit Office report 'confirms... that the Welsh Government's tuition fees policy is unsustainable in the long term.' He says:

This policy cannot be changed before 2017 at the earliest, and we have always stated our support for the policy for this Assembly term, but it is important that it is succeeded with a sustainable policy which has the widest possible support. This is why it is important that the Education Minister’s current review of HE funding policy reports back before the Welsh general election, so that the next government can move ahead with a sustainable policy and so students and voters know the choices they are making.

Part time students have also been let down by the current regime and that is also something that the review will need to address.

The policy that Plaid Cymru signed up to when we were in government was based on much lower projections – £7,000 fees per annum – however the policy implemented is actually 24% higher than this. When we saw that tuition fees were much higher than estimated, we were the first to warn that a review would be needed, which is why I have taken proactive steps to address these problems by holding my own consultation so that the Party of Wales has a sustainable and long-term policy going in to the 2016 Assembly election.

– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru Education spokesperson
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