The Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced that the Welsh Government will adopt proposals put forward in an independent review led by Professor Sir Ian Diamond and a panel of experts which will see £1000 for all students and some students receiving the equivalent of the National Living Wage during term time while they study.
The announcement was met with cross party support. The new proposals mean that the average Welsh student could receive £7,000 a year in grant support while they study, with a pro-rata version available to part-time students. The maximum level of support available is expected to be more than £9,000 a year for those studying full–time if implemented in 2018/19.
The Diamond review modelled a range of household income thresholds for those eligible for means-tested support. The Welsh Government has decided to set the upper threshold at £59,200, an increase of around £8,000 on current arrangements, meaning 70% of Welsh students will be eligible for some form of means-tested grant support, in addition to a universal £1,000, with around 35% eligible for the maximum grant.
The proposals that have been accepted include:
- A fundamental shift to a system that provides financial support for the daily living costs of students – both full-time and part-time – through a mix of grants and loans. It would mean students receiving the equivalent of the National Living Wage during term time while they study.
- A £1,000 annual non-means-tested universal maintenance grant to be made available to all students alongside the additional means-tested grant to cover living costs. Part-time students to receive a modified version of this support on a pro-rata basis.
- The top rate of maintenance grant and loan support, for a student living away from home outside London, should be equivalent to the National Living Wage – based on 37.5 hours per week over a 30 week period, currently £8,100. A maximum total support of 25% more (£10,125) to be available for a student living away from home in London.
- Maintenance support to be paid to students, as soon as is practicable, on a monthly basis to enable more efficient financial planning and budgeting.
- New, innovative ways of funding part-time students and a support package for post-graduate studies that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Students with an experience of care will receive the maximum maintenance grant.
The Welsh Government will now consult on the proposed changes, with a view to the new arrangements being in place for students starting university in September 2018. The changes will be subject to Treasury approval and the ability of the Student Loans Company to put the new funding system in place.
“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.
“We have looked closely at Professor Diamond’s recommendations and have accepted the great majority, while also committing to look further into some of the other proposals. We have decided to limit the increase to the upper household income threshold for means-tested support to £59,200, as we feel this would be sensible and prudent given the current financial outlook for the public sector in Wales.
“Our proposals are a fundamental shift so that Wales can develop a higher education funding and student finance system that really does provide for all.”