By Tirion Davies | Editor-in-Chief
The Welsh Government has announced today it will give Welsh universities an additional £40m, following a national outcry over rent and tuition fees.
Students across Wales noted last week they wanted partial refunds for university accommodation, as they were not able to return after the Christmas holiday period due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Union of Students Wales told the BBC at the time that students “shouldn’t be penalised” for following Welsh Government guidelines.
Cardiff University is one of two Welsh universities to offer students rebates of accommodation fees.
Many students in their final year have struggled this past year without face-to-face teaching, and with a shift to online learning. The hope is that this money will go towards further support for those struggling during this pandemic.
Where will this money go?
With face-to-face teaching suspended and staggered returns meaning many are not able to return to university yet, some are struggling to pay rent.
Without the ability to maintain a steady income from part-time jobs, students have called for support. Some students told the BBC they were having to sell clothes in order to pay for food and rent without being able to work.
It is said this £40m will go towards accommodation costs for students hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is currently unclear as to whether accommodation costs for students will include students in private accommodation.
The Welsh Government has already allocated £10m to help students facing financial hardship and mental health support during the pandemic. This additional £40m will target advice and support services and will be offered first to students most in need of additional help.
What about students suffering “digital poverty”?
As education has, for the most part, relied on online access throughout the pandemic, many students have been affected by “digital poverty”.
The Welsh Government has said part of these funds will enable better access to online learning for students and will cover costs incurred due to the need to self-isolate.
Welsh Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, addressed the news, stating,
“Our universities have worked tremendously hard to support their students, ensuring learning has continued while putting measures in place to protect their students, staff, and their local communities”.
Ms Williams made the announcement on Twitter,
For many students, this news will no doubt be welcomed, although information is still to be released surrounding the rollout of these funds.
The Welsh Government said universities and student unions would provide students with further information about how to access support during the pandemic, and how the funds will be allocated through the universities.