Welsh students are set to receive a radical overhaul to how student finance is organised at university. Published in Wales on the 27th September the Diamond review has released details of possibly the most generous student finance system anywhere in the UK. The Diamond review was launched by the previous Labour administration as a way of investigating potential changes to the student finance system in Wales. The review was led by Professor Sir Ian Diamond and a panel of experts, with cross party involvement.
The review suggests a considerable change to the current system of finance, with a shift towards providing students with greater support for daily living costs. The system would include a series of loans and grants to both part-time and full-time students. The change will see many students receiving the equivalent of the national living wage during their education.
The average student could receive £7000 plus in grant support, with pro-rata support given to part-time students. For those studying full-time the maximum level of support would be £9,113 a year.
The proposals by Professor Diamond aim to make the system more sustainable; with greater emphasis of ensuring cost of living while at university is not a barrier to lower income students.
Some recommendations of the Diamond review include a new maintenance grant system for undergraduate, postgraduate and part-time students, with the highest level of support reserved for those most disadvantaged. The support would be paid monthly to aid greater financial planning and budgeting.
A further proposal is the introduction of a new annual non-means tested universal maintenance grant being available to all students to cover living costs. This would be on a pro rate basis for part-time students.
Students would receive the equivalent of the national living wage while studying outside of London, with a 25% increase to the figure for students in London Those students studying from home would receive a 15% reduction.
To pay for this scheme the review highlights the need to reduce the Welsh tuition fee subsidy, with the subsidy being replaced with a student loan. Students would not be required to begin repaying back the tuition fee loan before earning more than £21,000 a year. The extent of the rise in the Welsh tuition fee has not been proposed, though the First Minister Carwyn Jones has repeatedly stated in the past that Welsh students would not pay the same level of tuition as English students.
Professor Diamond said: “it is essential to continue to invest in educating the future generations who will drive the economy and society of the future.
“In the twenty first century this requires an education system that minimises the attainment gap between rich and poor and allows people to access higher level skills that are the lifeblood of the kind of nation to which Wales aspires.”
“The funding of higher education should be a partnership between wider society and the individual. In contrast to England, where maintenance support for students will be based on loans, we propose a significant universal element of maintenance support for full-time students, meaning students from Wales will face a significantly lower average level of debt on leaving university than those from England.”
Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said: “I want to thank Professor Diamond and his team for all their work. This report presents a progressive and sustainable plan for Higher Education in Wales.
“My cabinet colleagues and I endorse the underlying principles in the report and we will now look into the detail of how we can implement these recommendations.”
“We want to make sure that those who wish to go on to university are able to. The fear of not being able to meet the cost of living on a daily basis puts many off, not the prospect of paying back loans after they are in work. This system addresses that issue head on, but will also mean making tough decisions to make sure the system is sustainable in the long-term.
“The generous package of support proposed by the panel would mean Welsh students would benefit from the only UK system that is consistent, progressive and fair across all levels and modes of study.”
“I am deeply committed to making sure access to higher education should be determined by academic ability and not social background.”
Changes to the student support system in Wales would not come into effect until 2018 at the earliest.