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    06 July, 2005

    Support for students

    Eighteen months ago the Assembly Government appointed Professor Teresa Rees to lead a Commission looking at the issues of funding higher education in Wales and how to support our students.

    Two weeks ago, the Assembly adopted a policy based on the Rees Commission proposals. The key elements are:

    • Currently, students in universities pay fixed annual fees of £1200 upfront before they start their courses. From October 2006 these fees will no longer have to be paid upfront – students will get a loan to cover them, which will be paid back over time after they graduate but only when they earn £15,000 or more.
    • Again from October 2006, the poorest students with family incomes below £15,000 a year – whether they are studying in Wales or England– will get the Higher Education Grant of up to £2700. Partial grants will be available for those with a household income of between around £15,000 and around £33,000. Around half of all new full-time students are likely to be eligible for a full or partial grant.
    • From October 2007 Welsh universities will be given the flexibility to charge fees of up to £3,000 - £1,800 more than the existing £1,200 fixed fee, but Welsh-domiciled university students will be eligible for a £1,800 fee grant which entirely covers these additional fees.
    • A National Bursary scheme will be introduced in Wales and funded from the additional income generated by fees.
    • Students will also still be able to apply for low-interest student loans to help with living costs.

    As I pointed out the other day, the number of full-time students from the Rhondda starting at higher education institutions increased by nearly 60 per cent between 1998-99 and 2003-04 from 235 to 405. Eighty-five per cent of full-time Rhondda students study at Welsh institutions, so they will benefit from what is being proposed in respect of fees. Over half currently get the full public contribution to tuition fees, and 19 per cent get partial contributions.

    435 people from the Rhondda each year study part time in higher education. Further work is to be done to look at ways of assisting those studying part-time.

    Welsh Labour was elected in the 2003 Assembly elections on a pledge not to introduce top-up fees in Wales before 2007. We have kept that pledge and gone beyond it.

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    Promoted by Leighton Andrews AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA.

    Author's editorial policy: This blog does not publish anonymous comments, unless they are really witty and I like them. If you have something to say, then have the courage of your convictions and use your name or an identifiable alias. Even then I reserve the right not to publish comments that are malicious, defamatory, stupid, pointlessly cynical or boring. Any of the statements or comments made above should be regarded as personal and not necessarily those of the National Assembly for Wales, any constituent part or connected body.