Radical changes proposed to student finance in Wales

By Harry Webster

Tuition fee grants for Welsh university students should be replaced by support for living costs, says a new review into university finances.

The Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance Arrangements in Wales, dubbed the Diamond Review after its author Professor Sir Ian Diamond, has outlined radical new proposals to redistribute Welsh Government funding to students, in an attempt to help ease living costs.

Under the current system Welsh students are entitled to a tuition fee loan of up to £3,810, and a tuition fee grant of up to £5,190, in order to cover the £9,000 a year maximum fee charged by universities.

However, under the new plan, Welsh students would be entitled to an additional student loan of up to £9,000 a year to cover their tuition fees.

A £1,000 a year maintenance grant will then also be made available to students under the new proposals, along with a means-tested grant, to help cover living costs.

The maximum means-tested grant of £8,100 (equivalent to the National Living Wage base of a 37.5 hour week for 30 weeks) would be available to students whose household income is less than £20,000.

This sum could rise by as much 25 per cent to £10,125 for students living away from home in London, whilst decreasing by 15 per cent to £6,885 for students living at home.

The new grant would however mean students from families earning £80,000 or over would only be entitled to the basic £1,000 maintenance grant.

Part-time students will also be entitled to the £1,000 maintenance grant before getting a means-tested maintenance grant.

In addition, the new system proposes that postgraduate students should receive equal financial support for both maintenance and tuition fees as undergraduate students, enabling more Welsh students to pursue further studies upon graduating.

Speaking to Gair Rhydd, Cardiff University Welsh Language Officer, Osian Wyn Morgan commended the proposals saying, “Overall, I believe the Diamond Report will be beneficial for Welsh Students.”

“By providing loans for postgraduate and part time students … higher education will become more accessible for more students.”

“The implementation of the policy will also hopefully attract students from lower income families, resulting in less people deciding against going to University for economic reasons.”

“While receiving a grant to cover living costs, as opposed to covering tuition fees, will result in students leaving University with more debt, it will make students’ life financially easier during their time studying, which I believe will generally work better than the current system.”

“I also believe that the fact that the grant is means tested is a fair system, which will give students from lower income background the additional financial support they need and deserve.”

The new proposals were also praised by students, with one third year medic stating that: “Being a medicine student, I feel I get my money’s worth of tuition. I therefore wouldn’t mind having to have the additional loan to go toward my tuition fees.”

With the current Welsh Government subsidies, the average Welsh student will pay approximately £3,500 a year for their studies.

If implemented, the proposals put forward in the review would not have any affect on current Welsh students.