The Welsh Conservative Party has announced a drastic plan to scrap tuition fee subsidies and instead replace them with grants to pay half the students’ rents.
Currently, Welsh students have to pay £3,810, regardless of their place of study in the UK. The Welsh Government will then support anything above that up to £5,190.
The Tories have slated this as an “expensive gimmick” describing it as a huge cost to the taxpayer.
In a speech to be made at the University of Exeter today, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies will say: “Higher Education funding in Wales needs a radical shake-up – and Welsh Conservatives are the only Party proposing a radical new approach which offers students the support they need with potentially prohibitive living costs.
“Accommodation costs often swallow up maintenance loans – meaning students – and their parents – often struggle with everyday living costs associated with University life.
“We want to change that – offering students timely, urgent support that will improve the accessibility of education; simultaneously ending Labour’s unsustainable tuition fee grant.”
Education Minister for Wales Huw Lewis recently reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to continue subsidising tuition fees if the party wins the election in May. However, he indicated the grants might become contextual in the future.
With the Welsh Assembly Election coming up on May 5th, tuition fee subsidies are becoming a hot topic of debate in Wales with many arguing the subsidies only drive Welsh students towards English universities where students would normally be expected to pay upwards of £9,000 for their tuition.
This announcement by the Conservatives comes only a few days after Plaid Cymru revealed plans to write off £6,000 of student debt per year if graduates choose to commence work in Wales.
In a statement, Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Simon Thomas said: “The Party of Wales wants everyone to be able to study any subject and in any university they want to.
“But the current tuition fee policy means we give more money to universities outside of Wales than we do inside of Wales. Our plans will enable students from Wales to study anywhere they want, and will ensure that the Welsh economy can benefit from the talent of Welsh students.”
Meanwhile the Welsh Liberal Democrats have said they would scrap the tuition fee subsidies and replace them with maintenance grants.
Welsh Lib Dem Shadow Education Minister Aled Roberts revealed: “The Welsh Liberal Democrats would replace Labour’s unsustainable policy with a Living Costs Grant as we recognise that it is living costs, not fees, that are the biggest barrier to people going to university.
“But our policy means that it is up to the individual student to best decide how to use this finance, rather than dictating to them.”
Under the Tory plans, the rent support will be paid wherever the student chooses to attend university in the UK.