15 February 2018
The National Association of Student Money Advisers (NASMA) has an annual week dedicated to promoting understanding of student finance with UK-based universities and higher education institutes being involved in the initiative. This week is National Student Money Week (12/02/18-16/02/18). What do we know and need to know about student finance in Wales?
Making a decision about which university to apply to, arranging visits to Open Days, and then deciding on four or five different universities can be a tricky process. With all of this, the added complexity of understanding student finance, the application process and how much they are untitled to, can be bewildering. Once a potential student has made their application in most instances via UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admission Service), the next natural step would be to explore student finance options. Eligibility, provision and application differs across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, adding to the complexity.
The theme of this year’s NASMA initiative is ‘Where I live’. This topic covers renting accommodation, bills, tenancy rights, contract and house sharing. It also addresses the finances available for up-front maintenance costs for students.
So what changes are there likely to be for Welsh domiciled students applying for student finance for the upcoming 2018/2019 academic year?
Student Finance Wales is a partnership between the Welsh Government and Student Loans Company, to provide information about financial support for Welsh-domiciled students whether attending university in Wales or elsewhere in the UK. The Welsh Government commissioned the Diamond review, and has subsequently set about implementing changes to student finances. This new financial support for eligible part and full-time undergraduates starting a university course from September 2018 was reformed on the basis of both the Diamond review and National Income and Expenditure Survey guidance. The new system sees a shift in the allocation of funding to benefit more upfront maintenance costs. The Diamond review concluded that day-to-day costs such as accommodation and food were considered bigger deterrents to students than tuition fee debt, with the Survey showing a high proportion of Welsh-domiciled students have overdrafts, commercial credit or are in arrears. Further information regarding the breakdown and comparison between the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 academic years of available student finance funding for welsh-domiciled students is outlined on both the Welsh Government website and Student Finance Wales. A summary of the changes are addressed in our previous blog.
All eligible Welsh students will be able to apply for a financial support package which is aimed at living costs, according to the Welsh Government’s media release on 5 February 2018. The new package aims to provide parity between full-time and part-time students providing a stronger package to part-time students, as well as equitable distribution of £1,000 to all students in the form of a grant, regardless of household income and without means-testing.
The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams outlined the capping of tuition fees in a statement 18 October 2017 stating that the maximum tuition fee Welsh universities can charge will remain at £9,000. This statement allowed for student finance allocation to be based on the maximum £9,000 for courses at Welsh universities.
With these Welsh Government changes to student finance, on 5 February 2018 the Welsh Government launched an awareness campaign to promote the benefits of university with the help of more financial support available.
A short video regarding the financial support available for new full-time undergraduate students starting 2018/2019 can be found on Student Finance Wales as well as funding guides published by the Research Service outlining the current position. Regulations to establish the 2018/2019 arrangements will need to pass through the National Assembly’s subordinate legislative process.
The Research Service acknowledges the parliamentary fellowship provided to Hayley Moulding by the Medical Research Council (MRC), which enabled this blog to be completed.
Article by Hayley Moulding, National Assembly for Wales Research Service.
Image from Pixabay by 0TheFool. Licensed under Creative Commons.