Go back

Fee rise and master’s grant cut ‘pricing Welsh students out’

Image: eNil [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opposition Senedd member criticises Welsh government reforms to student funding

The decision by the Welsh government to increase domestic tuition fee cap and scrap grants for postgraduate master’s students will “cost too many people out of education”, opposition party Plaid Cymru has claimed.

The Labour-led Welsh government announced on 6 February that maximum tuition fees will be increased to £9,250, bringing them in line with the fees charged in England. It is the first increase since 2011, and will be accompanied by a corresponding increase in student loans.

There will also be a 3.7 per cent upgrade in the value of maintenance grants and loans. This is below the rate of inflation but higher than the 2.5 per cent increase in loans announced in England recently.

Announcing the increase, Welsh education minister Jeremy Miles said the Welsh government had “resisted calls to raise the tuition fee cap in the past, but sustained inflationary pressure on higher education providers in Wales means an increase is now unavoidable”.

“This change will provide additional funding for universities and other providers in Wales, helping to safeguard provision and investment in the student experience,” Miles said in a written statement.

Miles also said the government had “taken the difficult decision that grants currently available to postgraduate Master’s students will now be replaced fully by repayable student loans”. This will apply to new students in 2024/25.

Postgraduate master’s students in Wales can currently receive grants of up to £6,885 and loans of up to £17,770.

Heledd Fychan, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for education in the Senedd, said the decision to increase tuition fees and scrap master’s grants would “cost too many people out of education, adding to the skills gap currently impacting so many sectors in Wales and the Welsh economy more broadly”.

“Our universities are in a dire situation,” she said. “Rather than investing in them, we are seeing the Labour government making it more difficult for students from Wales to study in Wales.

“I will be seeking urgent clarity from the Welsh government regarding these cuts, and how they will work with universities to safeguard their futures as well as the futures of young people in Wales.”

Fee increase

Meanwhile, there are increasing calls for tuition fees in England—which have been frozen since 2017—to be increased in line with inflation.

At an event on 7 February hosted by the King’s Policy Institute, Shitij Kapur, vice-chancellor of King’s College London, said the “first fix” to put English institutions on a more even financial keel was to “find a way to resource our universities in a way that keeps up with inflation”.

“So very simply, to look at the numbers, the fees were set at £9,000. If they had kept up with inflation, it would be close to about £13,000 or £14,000 today, but it is £9,250—and you can do the rest of the mathematics,” he said. “So we are in a very unstable equilibrium, largely maintained with the support of international student fees.”

Vivienne Stern, chief executive of the vice-chancellors group Universities UK, agreed. “​​You have to link the fee to inflation,” she said. “That’s not putting the fee up, that is simply stopping it going down.”