Monday 30-11-2015 - 16:55
Today, Universities Wales published its proposals for how it would finance the future of higher education. It included plans to replace the tuition fee grant system Wales currently has - which sees the Welsh Government pay the first £3,685 of tuition fees for students from Wales - with a means-tested system that supports disadvantaged students and prioritises money for those studying expensive subjects.
NUS Wales published its manifesto Better Education, Better Society, earlier this month detailing how we want to protect and enhance student support and move to a balanced system where all forms of education are financially accessible.
We believe it is neither sustainable, nor fair, to place responsibility for paying for education on the backs of students, when all of society shares in the benefits from it.
We are taking part in the Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance Arrangements in Wales (Diamond Review) which is looking at tuition fees as part of the whole student funding system. We are arguing to retain the current tuition fee support arrangements for the next Assembly term as part of a long-term strategy to reverse the huge levels of future debt levied on students. As well as this, we're arguing for increased maintenance support, as the cost of living can be one of the most prohibitive factors to education for the poorest students; maintenance support can be of immediate benefit that ensures someone can continue in education even when faced with immediate financial difficulty.
What we need in the long-term is a publicly-funded education system which is run collaboratively and democratically in the public interest. We know from our own research that the vast majority of the public support NUS Wales in this - with 70% of people saying it should be a priority for the Welsh Government to support students with tuition fee debt.
While students’ unions understand the difficult financial times we live in, we will fight tooth and nail to make sure students aren’t the ones left to foot the bill for the downturn - It would be short-sighted to tear up a system which places investment in students at its heart and risk economic prosperity in the future.