£40m extra to support struggling students in Wales

An extra £40 million will be made available to support students facing financial hardship in Wales.

Universities will be asked to prioritise funding towards the most vulnerable students, as well as strengthening advice and support services for students, the Welsh Government said.

The funding will also be used to address digital poverty among students, to enable better access to online learning, and costs incurred due to the need to self-isolate.

All eight universities in Wales have announced rent refunds for students who are unable to access university-owned accommodation during lockdown.

The cash boost is in addition to more than £40 million the Welsh Government has already provided to help universities and will come from their Covid-19 reserve, to support the national response to the pandemic.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: "This year, due to reasons beyond their control, many thousands of students have not been able to return to campus yet.

"In some cases, this means some students might still be paying for their accommodation while they are unable to use it.

"We recognise how difficult this is, which is why we are announcing this additional funding."

Credit: PA

The National Union of Students have welcomed the announcement and have said it is "vital" the money is used to support students renting from private landlords

NUS Wales President Becky Ricketts said: "It is great news that every institution in Wales has committed to refunding students for time they can’t be at university-owned accommodation, but this does not apply to students who rent privately. 

“The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the private rented market for students, and I will keep the pressure on the Welsh Government to strengthen protections for student renters longer term, such as more flexible notice periods.

“I’m also delighted that part of the £40 million will be used to address digital poverty. Not every student can access adequate learning technologies when they’re away from university, so focusing on those students will help them continue their learning at this difficult time.”