Funding for universities and colleges 'falls short' of supporting students worst-hit by pandemic

The Welsh Government has pledged £50m in funding to support students and Wales’ major education institutions in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: PA Images

Unionists have said the support package to enable universities and colleges to recover from coronavirus "falls short" of doing the same for students struggling with money.

The Welsh Government pledged £50m as part of its plans to support Wales' major education institutions in response to the economic impact of the crisis.

It said £27m will be given to higher education institutions, with £23m to support students in further education colleges and sixth forms.

But the National Union of Students said while the funding provides institutions "much-needed certainty," it does not provide the same reassurance for students.

The NUS said many students are struggling with finances as a result of the pandemic. Credit: PA Images

NUS Wales President Becky Ricketts said it is "disappointing the package does not include ring-fenced funding for student hardship," which she said has increased due to the negative impact on student incomes.

“It is also regrettable that many students still have no legal right to exit tenancies on term-time accommodation which they may no longer be able to occupy," she added.

"The funding announced for further education colleges goes a long way to alleviating our concerns about the disproportionate impact of the virus on vulnerable and digitally excluded students."

The Welsh Government said the package will support students suffering from financial hardship.

It added the funding will help prevent job losses, including teachers and research and student services.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the funding would help maintain the workforce needed to recover the economy from coronavirus. Credit: Welsh Government

The education minister said the true impact of the pandemic on universities will not be revealed until next term.

“Our support for 16-19 age students aims to ensure students beginning courses in September are not disadvantaged by the disruption they faced earlier this year," Kirsty

Williams said.

“We will consider the situation and needs again in the autumn, to continue our support for the economic and social recovery from Covid-19."

£3.2m will be spent on digital equipment such as laptops for further education students.

£100,000 will also be used to support regional mental health and wellbeing projects and professional development.

Professor Julie Lydon, Chair of Universities Wales, said the package recognises the crucial role of Welsh universities in the recovery from the pandemic.

"This statement demonstrates Welsh Government's determination to provide stability for our universities and will be reassuring for students who have consistently rated the student experience in Wales as excellent," she said. 

 "We are committed to ensuring that universities, working with our partners across the post-16, business and charity sectors, are able to deliver the change and benefits that Wales needs as we build a new future."