Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, has announced that the way Welsh university students are funded will change in September 2018/19. This follows a series of proposals made by Professor Ian Diamond in a report that was published in September.
Under the current system all students, regardless of household income, receive a generous tuition fee grant of £5100. This system cost the taxpayer £237 million in 2015/16.
The new proposals mean that:
- all students will get a £1000 maintenance grant each year; and
- those who come from a family where the annual household income is below £59,200 will be eligible for a means-tested maintenance grant of up to £9000 per year.
The top rate of maintenance grant and loan support for a student living away from home outside London will be equivalent to the National Living Wage – based on 37.5 hours per week over a 30 week period, currently £8,100. Students with an experience of care will receive the maximum maintenance grant.
Welsh students studying in London will receive a maximum total support of 25% more (£10,125), while part-time students will receive a modified version of this support on a pro-rata basis. It’s been estimated that the average Welsh student could receive £7000 a year in grant support while they study, with 35% eligible for the maximum grant.
Officials believe the changes could save at least £40m by the fourth or fifth year of operation, which would then go back into higher and further education.
Ms Williams said: “We are looking to introduce the most generous and progressive system anywhere in the UK. If you want to go to university, this system will allow you to do so.
“Academic ability should determine whether you go to university, not your social background. Students from Wales will be supported to meet their daily living costs; something they continually tell us puts them off going to university.
“I am proud to confirm our intention to deliver the first system in the UK that is consistent, progressive and fair in its support for full and part-time undergraduates and for post-graduate students.
“I am clear that Wales needs a sustainable and progressive higher education funding settlement that supports students when they most need it, and enables our universities to compete internationally.”
The Welsh Government will now consult on the proposed changes, which will also need approval from the Treasury and the Student Loans Company, before coming into play in 2018/19.