The Welsh Education minister has announced that part-time students are to enjoy the same type of financial support as that made available to full time students.
Under the government’s proposals, subject to the passing of the Education Bill, the maximum amount to be paid for part-time tuition fees will be £7000 pro rata, rather than £9000, in an effort to encourage learners to enter higher education on a part-time basis.
Those students domiciled in Wales on part-time courses would then be entitled to a non-means-tests loan and grant to meet up-front costs. In line with the support announced for full-time students, a loan will also be available to cover a proportion of the fee and a grant from the Welsh government will be available to cover the remaining cost.
Outlining the proposals, Andrews argued:
“These proposals represent a good deal for the Welsh HE (higher education) sector and a fair solution for Welsh part-time students. The ability to charge higher fees for part-time courses will generate additional income for HE institutions in Wales. At the same time, part-time learners will face no up-front costs in order to access higher education.
“Once again, we are putting forward a made-in-Wales solution which meets the needs of both the higher education sector in Wales and Welsh part-time students.”
The policy received a warm reception from students and from universities with a high proportion of part-time students.
For the Open University (OU), Rob Humphreys, the university’s director in Wales, while arguing that he felt £7000 was still too much, concluded:
“80 per cent of OU students work whilst studying, contributing to the economy both through their taxes and their actions in retraining and re-skilling.
“It is right that they, and the four-in-ten of students in Wales that study part-time, have a similar level of support for the cost of learning as full-time students.”
For the NUS, it’s President in Wales, Kate Dalton responded:
“We will have to consider the detail of these proposals, but we welcome the news that many part-time students will no longer have to pay expensive up-front tuition fees and will instead be entitled to tuition fee loans and grants. This will make part-time study far more accessible to those who are currently shut out from higher education because of financial reasons or family responsibilities.”
“We are also pleased that the minister has taken on our suggestion to implement a lower tuition fee limit in comparison to full-time study, but we believe that £7,000 is still far too high.”
The announcement comes just weeks after Angela Burns, Welsh Conservative’s spokesperson on Education branded the government’s subsidy system, designed to support students, as a “pre-election gimmick” that was “half baked”.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.