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 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.
Chief Exectuive of HEFCW, the organisation which shares out Welsh Government funds to universities, David Blaney on the likely impact of changes to the way Welsh higher education is funded.
His comments follow concerns set out in evidence to next week's Finance Committee session on higher education funding.
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:
Beth Button, Deputy President of NUS Wales, warns that concerns about the affordability of tuition fees misses a bigger concern: how to help students cope with living costs.
She also says the current system doesn't take into account part-time students which is putting off potential students from lower-income backgrounds.
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:
- It's 'wrong in principle' that £50m of the Welsh universities budget for 2013/14 is going to institutions elsewhere in the UK. The figure's confirmed in separate evidence by the body which shares out funding to universities, HEFCW.
- 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.
Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas was an adviser to the One Wales coalition government which introduced the cap on tuition fees in Wales. But he says the Wales Audit Office report calls into question the policy's long-term affordability.
Former Education Minister Leighton Andrews explains why he disputes the claim by the Auditor-General for Wales that the cost of subsidising tuition fees is more than £150m more than first predicted.
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: