How students ordinarily resident in Wales (Welsh Students) get supported through university is about to undergo a major overhaul. The Welsh Government has consulted on its proposals to change Support funding for students resident in Wales from November 2016 to February 2017. Now the results of that consultation, as well as what student support will be available in 2018/19, are due to be announced in Plenary on 11 July 2017. With that announcement the next steps on the reform journey are likely to become clearer.
The changes outlined in the consultation are largely based on The Final Report of the Independent review of higher education funding and student finance arrangements (the Diamond Review), which was published on 27 September 2016. The Executive Summary (PDF 270KB) released alongside the report, summarises the main recommendations of the Diamond Review. The changes will apply to all Welsh students wherever they study in the UK.
In November 2016, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, published the Welsh Government’s response to the Review’s (PDF 340KB) recommendations alongside a corresponding consultation document (PDF 445KB) which highlighted the Welsh Government’s implementation proposals.
Support for students from 2018/19
The Welsh Government, supported by evidence from the Diamond Review, has argued that support for day to day costs of being a student, such as accommodation, food, transport and books etc, are a bigger deterrent to potential students, rather than concern over tuition fee debt.
As a result the Welsh Government is going to replace the current Tuition Fee Grant for full-time undergraduate students (worth £4,954 in 2017/18) with a student loan, up to the current maximum fee level applicable in 2018/19, (currently £9,000 in Wales, and £9,250 in the rest of the UK).
Instead of the Tuition Fee Grant, there will be a £1,000 non-means-tested universal maintenance grant for all Welsh students. There will also be an additional means-tested grant available to cover living costs. Those from households earning over £59,200 will only be eligible for the universal grant and a Maintenance Loan (outlined below).
The top rate of means-tested Maintenance Grant for a student living away from home outside London, will be £8,100 in 2018/19. A 25% supplement to be available for a student living away from home in London (£10,125) and there will be a 15% deduction for students living at home (£6,885).
A non-means tested Maintenance Loans will be available for Welsh students who are not eligible for the full grant. The amount of loan available will be equal to the maximum level of total maintenance support, less any means-tested grant.
The Welsh Government has said that what it is offering from 2018/19 constitutes the ‘most generous student finance support package in the UK’.
Support for postgraduate students
From 2018/19 the Welsh Government will also provide support of up to £17,000 for Welsh students undertaking a taught masters course. This £17,000 ‘contribution towards costs’ would comprise of a grant at the same level as for full-time undergraduate students living at home and an additional loan. This funding will be un-hypothecated, so students will be able to decide how they choose to spend it.
What the Welsh Government consulted on
Through the support funding for students resident in Wales consultation, the Welsh Government sought views on how it could:
- Move towards paying maintenance support to students on a monthly basis;
- Move to a fully regulated part-time system by 2021, whereby part-time courses would have to be approved by HEFCW in order for students of that course to be eligible for maintenance support from Welsh Government;
- continue to encourage and fund students who wish to study at an intensity of below 25% of a full time and students who have an Equivalent Level Qualification to the one they wish to study;
- provide additional support for students with experience of being in a care setting receive, as it has already committed to ensuring that these students will receive the maximum level of maintenance grant available; and
- best support a pilot scheme for students who wish to study outside the UK and EU.
Article by Joseph Champion, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Image from Flickr by Kevin Saff. Licensed under the Creative Commons.
This post is also available as a print-friendly PDF: A step closer to student funding reform? How students will be supported from 2018/19. (PDF, 184KB)