Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education, has announced that tuition fees in Wales will be frozen at £9,000. She has also announced £26million of government investment to support students and universities over the next two years.
Welsh Liberal Democrats are already committed to introducing the most generous and progressive student finance of anywhere in the United Kingdom, shifting support to living costs – the biggest barrier for students accessing universities. Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, has said the Government in England could “learn valuable lessons” from the Welsh approach to student support.
Welsh Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of a sustainable funding system and the difficulties arising from political turmoil and uncertainty in the English system. The Welsh higher education system does not operate in a vacuum – developments in England will inevitably affect Wales – but the party will continue to secure a fairer system in Wales.
Along with the freeze in fees at £9,000, Kirsty Williams has announced that the repayment threshold for undergraduate loans will increase from £21,000 to £25,000, effective from 6th April 2018 subject to the successful conclusion of discussions with Her Majesty’s Treasury.
Announcing the changes, Kirsty Williams said:
“I will not allow the political turmoil and uncertainty in England to knock us off course from delivering on a stable and sustainable higher education system in Wales.
“Our sector does not operate in isolation and we must provide stability for our institutions to compete both domestically and internationally.
“Given the uncertain political climate in England I have carefully considered our future plans for tuition fee levels. After consulting with our Universities and the National Union of Students, the maximum tuition fee will remain at £9,000. We are also on track to deliver the most equitable and progressive student support system in the UK, starting next academic year.
“Unlike the Government across the border, we are delivering investment to support both students and universities as part of these changes.
“I also remain concerned about the rate of interest charged to students whilst they study and I will continue to discuss this with counterparts in Whitehall.”
Details of the £26million investment
£6million has been allocated to HEFCW in this financial year, to deal with the short-term implications of demographic change and to help them in preparing for the implications of Brexit.
Up to an additional £10million has been made available to HEFCW to deal with any immediate issues arising from the tuition fees change.
Another £5million will be allocated to HEFCW in 2018-19 and 2019-20 to allow institutions to provide bursaries and grants to postgraduate students. This is prior to full implementation of the new package of postgraduate support in 2019-20.