Tuesday 01-03-2016 - 16:25
Students’ unions across Wales have achieved a huge campaigning success, with students mobilising to ensure the proposed £41 million cut to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales did not happen.
In December, the Welsh Government released a draft budget that outlined a £41 million cut to HEFCW’s funding. NUS Wales was fearful about the impact of these cuts would have on vital student-centred services and widening access priorities.
In Wales, we’ve already seen Further Education decimated as budgets have been slashed by 12 per cent since 2013. Adult learning funding has nearly disappeared - reduced by half in the last year alone. Part-time student numbers have gone steadily down as fees policy bites. This proposed cut look like another attack on an already suffering sector, a sector that regularly has to fight over an ever diminishing pot of money.
Representing all students in Wales, we have a vested interested in protecting funding across the whole sector. When we call for protection of one budget, we know that this could be at the detriment of another. It is an untenable position to be in, as much as the constant cuts to the sector are for the institutions.
Last month however, there was a real commitment to students in Wales, a commitment that came as a result of the collective voice of the student movement. In response to the budget announcement unions across Wales in recent weeks have campaigned to ensure students were represented in political decision making. Unions organised meetings with our AMs, lobbied leaders in our institutions, gave media interviews and met with Huw Lewis, Welsh Government Education Minister. The hard work paid off not only have we seen the cut to HEFCW reduced to £10 million there has also been commitment to with cash protection of Further Education, investment in apprenticeships and part time courses.
This budget shows that there has been a clear demonstration that increased investment across the sector is possible and it doesn’t have to be pitted against each other. We are united in our desire to see education sector that is accessible to all, flexible and affordable and this week we should celebrate the fact this was embraced by decision makers.
We won’t stop fighting for this either, we are strong as a movement and must continue to be on the final countdown to the National Assembly for Wales Elections. The battle lines are being drawn and education policies are being released on a near weekly basis. We have an opportunity to shape the education for the next generation. We must be bold and we must fight for the principles of a fair education system.
We need to continue to make our voices heard, where we see education being stripped to the bone, we need to call it out. A better education system leads to a better society. We should all be proud of the steps we took towards this goal.
A Welsh translated version of this article is available here.