The Welsh Liberal Democrat’s 2016 manifesto recognised that living costs, not tuition fee debt, were the biggest barrier to people going to university. It pledged a ‘Student Living Support Grant’ for all Welsh domiciled students.
The Progressive Agreement said that:
“The recommendations of the Diamond Review are considered, with a view to early implementation where appropriate, but there will be no negative effect on the higher education budget if there are any changes.”
In September 2016 the recommendations of the Diamond Review were published, proposing a shift to helping students manage their term-time living costs, supported by a mix of loans and grants, and made available to full-time and part-time students, as well as post-graduate students.
In November 2016 Kirsty Williams announced that she would implement the Diamond package of reforms. This means that, from 2018/19 full-time and part-time undergraduates will receive grant and loan support to cover their up-front costs. The average student from Wales is likely receive £7,000 per year as a non-repayable grant. It will be available to student from Wales wherever in the UK they choose to study. This is the first time in the UK that equivalent living costs grant support will be available across mode and level of study. This will secure the stability and sustainability of the funding system, whilst also delivering additional funding for further and higher education.
Wales will also become the first country in Europe to introduce equivalent maintenance support across full-time and part-time undergraduates, as well as postgraduates.