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Doublethink in Wales

Just days after announcing a fundamental review of tuition fees, the Welsh education minister denies there are problems with the existing system, writes Alison Goddard.

The Wales Audit Office has identified that the costs of subsidising the tuition fees for Welsh undergraduates are 24 per cent higher than predicted. Its review, published yesterday, shows that ministers assumed in 2010 that average tuition fees outside Wales would be around £7,000 per year but they transpired to be closer to the £9,000 maximum permitted fee. We have a report, available only to subscribers to HE, which examines how Huw Lewis, the education minister in the Welsh Assembly, defended the subsidy and claimed that the system was sustainable. He did so just days after announcing a fundamental, cross-party review of student finance that is not due to report until after the next Welsh Assembly elections in 2016, a manoeuvre that has previously twice been used in Westminster, once to introduce undergraduate tuition fees and once to raise them. The BBC reports the political shenanigans: Leighton Andrews, who was education minister when the policy was introduced, spent much of yesterday saying that the cost was £200 million less than the worst-case scenario. The Welsh press reports that the episode is "deeply embarrassing" for the Welsh government.

The British Council has published a report on what it calls "megatrends" in international higher education. It identifies population growth, particularly in India, rising prosperity and improved technology as drivers of an increasing global demand for university education.

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