NUS calls on Welsh Government to prevent thousands of students being priced out of further education

NUS Wales wants the government to increase EMA to match the cost of living

Welsh flags at the Welsh Parliamen

NUS Wales has launched a new campaign calling on the Welsh Government to increase Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). EMA is a weekly £30 grant designed to support 16-18 year olds from low income households with further education costs.

Introduced by the last Labour government in Westminster, the scheme was scrapped in England by the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition, triggering mass protests. However, the payments were retained in Wales.

Despite being in operation for almost 20 years, and considerable increases in the cost of living in that time, EMA in Wales has remained flat at £30. NUS Wales has said that because EMA has not risen over that period, the scheme is no longer fit for purpose. Had EMA payments risen with inflation, students would now be receiving close to £50.

Currently, around 17,000 further education students in Wales – that’s students in sixth form and colleges – receive EMA, with NUS Wales saying they rely on the scheme to continue their education.

Orla Tarn, NUS Wales President, said: “Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is vital in supporting young people from low income backgrounds through further education. But at just £30 a week, it’s not fit for purpose. Even before the Cost of Living Crisis EMA didn’t go far enough to support students in further education. The fact that it hasn’t increased in almost two decades proves it needs to be updated to reflect the needs of learners today. 

“We were pleased to see the Welsh Government back a motion by Plaid Cymru MS Luke Fletcher to review EMA.  Now we’re urging them to take the next steps to ensure young people aren’t priced out of education.” 

NUS Wales is calling for the government to increase EMA so that it more accurately reflects the costs of studying in further education and for the entitlement to the scheme to be increased, allowing more students to qualify for support.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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