AS THE UNIVERSITY of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) braces itself for a busy period of applications, it has offered advice to students who may find themselves in the Clearing process after getting their results on Thursday (Aug 18).
Melanie Jones, Executive Schools and Colleges Marketing Officer at UWTSD, said: “Students should get some advice from their tutors about the options available to them and look up the institutions with vacancies in their chosen subject. They can do this via the UCAS website, the media or individual institution websites. Students can also talk to Clearing line advisors to find a course that’s suitable for them.
“Using the unique Clearing number (located on the welcome and choices pages of the UCAS Track website) and personal ID number, students can contact each institution directly, where trained staff will be on hand to advise them about any vacancies that may be available on each specific programme. In some cases, they are able to make an offer straight away.
“One of the best ways to find out about an institution is to visit its campus. Many places will hold a Clearing Open Day, which offers a great opportunity to judge if the course and the place are the right choice.
“Once a student has made a choice and accepted a provisional offer, the next step is to apply electronically through the UCAS Track system at www.ucas.com and confirmation of their place should come directly from the institution shortly after.”
Amy Parker, who secured her university place at UWTSD through Clearing and has graduated with a BA in Religious Studies from Lampeter, said: “My A Level results didn’t go my way. My Head of Sixth Form and I rang UWTSD and they confirmed they had a place for me. I burst out crying with tears of relief and happiness and so did my dad. Not getting the results you wanted or expected is not the end of the world and everything happens for a reason. I have enjoyed the best three years of my life.”
A list of course vacancies at UWTSD can be found at www. uwtsd.ac.uk/clearing and potential students who would like to discuss the options available to them can speak to the UWTSD admissions team on 0300 323 1828.
FROM HIGHER EDUCATION TO HIRED
92% of UWTSD’s undergraduates were in employment and/or further study six months after graduating – source: DLHE 2014/15. Recent graduates are now employed at businesses including Jaguar Land Rover, Fujitsu, Sky News, Morganstone, Virgin Media, Welsh Water, Hewlett Packard and the British Army.
UWTSD takes an applied, employment-focused approach, which includes practical work experience, opportunities for work placements, innovative student-led approaches to learning and cutting edge ‘masterclasses’ delivered by leading professionals and academics. All of the university’s courses are designed to instil in graduates the attributes desired by employers, e.g. innovation, creativity, an enterprising mindset and responsiveness to unexpected events or tasks.
Fritha Costain, who graduated from Lampeter with a BA in Archaeology, is now General Manager for National Trust Scotland. She said: “Going to Lampeter was an amazing experience. Studying archaeology was fabulous and it provided the foundation of my interest in heritage today. The small size of the university meant that I had opportunities to do as much as I wanted to – I trained as a DJ and was vice-chair of RAG – roles that I would never have been brave enough to take on in a bigger university. Most of all though, I had lots of fun and met some wonderful people.”
Stefanie Turner, is a Master of Arts Creative Writing graduate from UWTSD’s Lampeter campus, who will be teaching English as a Foreign Language in South Korea. She said: “I will be moving to South Korea in August to start teaching there. Studying at UWTSD has taught me that I’m capable of anything, so I’m going to do just that.”
Lowri Bevan has graduated with a First Class Honours degree from the BA New Media Production course at UWTSD Carmarthen. Lowri will be setting up her own business, Digi Designs, which will be a creative marketing and advertising agency focusing on native and artistic advertising for businesses and sectors across Wales. Lowri said: “Completing the entrepreneurship module made me realise I am now capable of building my very own business and it has opened my eyes to the amount of support Wales has to offer for young aspiring entrepreneurs like myself.”
Reham Ismail Saeed Al- Shaibani graduated with a first class BSc (Hons) in Business Information Technology. She said: “My course was totally employment focused. The lecturers gave me the help and advice I needed throughout.”
Mother and daughter Gwenllian Davies and Ann Davies graduated with a BA Early Childhood degree in Carmarthen and have since set up their own nursery. Gwenllian said: “Running my own nursery has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and Cwtsh y Clos Nursery is a dream come true. The course at UWTSD is offered through the medium of Welsh which was brilliant.”
Last year, around 64,000 individuals across the UK found their place in university through the Clearing process – with Aberystwyth University taking more than 1,000 calls from students looking for guidance.
Aberystwyth University’s Schools and Colleges Liaison Manager, David Moyle, says there is no longer a stigma attached to seeking a place at university through Clearing.
“We appreciate that applying to university through Clearing can be a stressful time for some students, but the Clearing team at Aberystwyth University are here to make the process as easy possible by offering applicants a step by step guide to ensure they find the right course,” said Mr Moyle, who has been holding a series of training sessions for staff in the lead-up to August 18.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to provide advice and guidance to students. On A Level results day, we’re in by 7 o’clock in the morning and although it’s a busy day for all involved, there’s a great atmosphere amongst the whole team. We’re all there for one purpose: to ensure students get the best advice to make an informed decision. It can be an emotional day but it’s a brilliant feeling to hear the delight in a student’s voice when we are able to offer them a place to study with us.
“There are a lot of people involved in the university’s Clearing operation to ensure we offer the best service to applicants and all of the necessary logistics are in in place. We’re now looking forward to receiving calls from students interested in applying to courses at Aberystwyth University, which has just been ranked one of the ten best higher education institutes in the UK and the best in Wales for student satisfaction.”
As well as receiving calls on a special 0800 hotline, staff at Aberystwyth University can also be contacted via email, Facebook, Twitter and live web chat.
With a process such as Clearing it’s important to act fast. Hundreds of students will be in a position where they wish to apply for a course immediately following their results, and places are often limited and can fill up fast.
Is targeted funding raising school standards?
A NEW inquiry will look at the Welsh Government’s approach to targeted funding in Welsh schools, and whether this has helped to improve the performance and standards of specific groups of pupils and schools.
The National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee will be focusing on the Welsh Government’s Pupil Development Grant (PDG), and the now ended Schools Challenge Cymru programme (SCC).
More than £90m a year is spent on PDG, which specifically works towards helping children in more deprived areas at primary and secondary level. Schools Challenge Cymru focused on raising attainment levels at those secondary schools facing the greatest challenges in improving. Over its three years SCC cost around £40m.
Figures show that, while the number of pupils benefitting from PDG and who achieved five or more GCSEs at A*-C grade had risen over a decade, there was a sharp decrease from 71.6% in 2016 to 41.1% in 2017.
Schools Challenge Cymru had shown an improvement in 23 out of 39 schools with more pupils attaining five or more GCSEs at A*-C grade. However, a number of other schools saw a deterioration in standards with five dropping into the red band in the Welsh Government’s national school band scale.
“Raising the attainment levels of pupils in Wales’ most deprived areas is a key priority for the Welsh Government,” said Lynne Neagle AM, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee.
“It is critical that every child in Wales has a high standard of education and the same opportunities as everyone else, regardless of their circumstances.
“The recent fall in standards in schools in receipt of the Pupil Development Grant is particularly concerning and goes against the general trend of improvement over the past decade.
“We will be looking at why that is and what schools and the regional education consortia are doing to make sure the millions of pounds set aside each year are going to the right areas in the right way.
“We will also be considering the impact of Schools Challenge Cymru and the consequences for the schools which benefitted from it now that the programme has come to an end.”
The Committee has launched a public consultation on targeted funding. Anyone wishing to contribute can found out more information on the Committee’s web pages. The deadline for the consultation is January 5, 2018.
Student finance ‘discriminates against women and mature students’
A WEST Wales mature student has alleged that Student Finance Wales discriminates against mature female students who have changed their name through marriage or divorce.
Tricia (not her real name) contacted The Herald after she experienced protracted delays in receiving student finance to which she was entitled having been made ‘to jump through hoops’ to prove she was who she said she was.
She encountered difficulties after applying for a one year top up from a HND to a BA.
The situation was rendered all the more frustrating as, Student Finance Wales had all of Tricia’s proof of identity from the previous year, when she completed her HND, access to all of the information submitted in connection with that award, and repeatedly told her that there was no information required from her before telling her on a number of occasions, and only when she rang to query the continuing delay, that further information was needed.
Tricia applied for student finance on June 14 and supporting information for her financial status was provided immediately to Student Finance Wales. Tricia had the same customer reference number, same email, same telephone contact number that she had used for her previous application.
Tricia was particularly exasperated as she had been through precisely the same rigmarole in proving her identity in her initial application two years before.
She told us: “Despite the fact that I applied early for student finance, after that earlier bad experience, I kept on being pushed from pillar to post. Even though ALL of my information was already held by Student Finance and they were writing to me at my home address, which I had already provided and proved, it was not until mid-August that Student Finance Wales asked for proof that I actually lived in Wales.
“Having sent that proof, I rang up to check everything was okay and was told that Student Finance Wales had all the information they needed to process my application.”
She continued: “Having waited for a few weeks and with the start of term already near, I rang to find out what was happening. I was then told that before my application could proceed that they wanted information for an application for a childcare grant, which I have never sought and had not asked for. I had to write a letter telling them this – unbelievably six weeks after acknowledging they had received that letter, the information is still shown as required.
“Anyway, I confirmed again that they now had all the material they needed. And was told they did. A few weeks passed and I had heard nothing. I rang again. This time they wanted me to provide both my birth certificate and a form signed by a third party confirming that I was me!
“I raised an immediate complaint and was told I would be sent a copy of that for my own information.”
On October 26, Tricia rang to confirm that all information had been received and make sure that nothing else was needed.
Tricia’s experience then entered the realms of the surreal. A friend verified her identity. The same person had verified her partner’s identity for their application for student finance and been accepted.
The proof of identity was rejected and during the phone call a claim was made that a letter to that effect had been sent out on October 20, which was remarkable in itself as the identity form had only been posted on October 19. Not only was there no sign of that letter’s arrival, there was no sign of it in the record of correspondence.
Tricia then raised the question of her previous complaint, only to be told there was no record of it. She was then told by a manager at Student Finance Wales that she was not entitled to see the content of any complaint raised by the company on her behalf, although that manager told her that she would now raise a complaint for her and notify her it had been raised.
After waiting a few days, and with no sign of a complaint being made, Tricia emailed a full complaint to Student Finance Wales and copied her constituency and regional AMs in along with Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams and the Assembly parties’ education spokespersons.
Response was swift. First to respond was Labour’s Joyce Watson who promised to raise the matter with the Cabinet Secretary. That was followed by responses from Paul Davies – who helped resolve Tricia’s previous complaint – Simon Thomas, and UKIP’s Neil Hamilton who provided a very full and sympathetic response to Tricia’s plight; then, the Welsh Government contacted Tricia and asked for her permission to deal with Student Finance Wales on her behalf.
Finally, a day or so later, Tricia was emailed by Student Finance Wales to say that they were now acting on her complaint.
Mysteriously, the letter telling her that her identity proof was unacceptable arrived postmarked October 31, the same day as her complaint.
Within seven days of contacting her local AMs, Tricia was told that her student finance had been approved and that payments would be made shortly. She does not think that is a coincidence.
Tricia is, however, still frustrated by the whole experience.
“The situation had become ridiculous. I was being discriminated against for being an older woman, who had been married before. They not only had all my information already, they told me they could see it on the computer system and yet still said they needed it again. It’s bureaucracy for the sake of it. And as for not allowing customers to see complaints raised on their behalf, I bet their complaints clear up rate is stellar.
“Again, it was only when I complained and copied in AMs that there was any movement at all. That is not right and just makes me wonder how many students who have not contacted their own AMs have been forced out of higher education by Student Finance Wales incompetence.”
She concluded: “When I initially raised issues about the process way back in August I was told that I should blame the Welsh Government! To make matters worse, it had been suggested to me that I could get my parents to confirm my name change. I could, I suppose, have got a shovel or Ouija board, but neither of those options was very appealing!”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Llyr Gruffydd said: “Plaid Cymru believes education is a right not a privilege so we want to make sure there is fair play when it comes to Student Finance Wales regardless of age or gender.”
Mid and West AM Simon Thomas added: “A constituent has informed me of a formal complaint they have made regarding the way in which their application for student finance has been handled by Student Finance Wales. Their application for student finance has still not been processed – almost five months after the initial application was made.
“My constituent feels that Student Finance Wales indirectly discriminate on the grounds of age and gender.”
Simon Thomas has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education requesting the following information.
- An outline of Student Finance Wales’ complaints procedure
- The number of complaints received by Student Finance Wales each year in the last five years
- A breakdown of the nature of the complaints received
- An outline of the evidence of income and identity Student Finance Wales asks for in order to process a student’s application for student finance
Tricia’s constituency AM, Paul Davies told The Herald: “The experiences that Tricia has had with Student Finance Wales are deeply disappointing and caused her unnecessary distress, at a time when she should be focusing on her studies. It’s clear that there are failings in the system, which continue to be unaddressed and the Welsh Government should now commit to seriously reviewing Student Finance Wales’ operations.
“Sadly, this is not the first worrying experience that Tricia has faced throughout her studies and it’s simply unacceptable. Lessons clearly haven’t been learnt from previous occasions and therefore it’s important that the Welsh Government urgently addresses these problems to ensure that other students are not faced with similar problems in the future.”
Welsh Government invests £310m in skills
THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has outlined a £310m package of financial support to drive up skills across Wales.
Ahead of the publication of the Welsh Government’s departmental spending plans, the Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, announced £50m of capital funding for Further Education and Higher Education sectors to improve facilities and learning environments for students.
Over the next two years, £10m will be allocated for FE institutions to invest in industry-standard training equipment and a further £10m for essential maintenance to ensure safe learning environments.
An additional £30m (£10m in each of the next three years) will be allocated to support higher education estate rationalisation. This will expand the successful 21st century schools and education programme to include a ring-fenced fund for higher education estates; reducing surplus capacity and creating a more energy-efficient estate across Wales.
The Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James, also confirmed that £260m will be invested for apprenticeships over the next two years (£130m in each year) to support the Welsh Government’s commitment of creating 100,000 all-age apprenticeships over the life of this Assembly term.
Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said: “Our £50m capital investment for the FE and HE sector will enable them to provide state of the art facilities, improving learning environments for students and satisfying local employer needs. This investment is crucial both for our learners and for the wider economy.
Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James said: “We are committed to raising skills standards across the board in Wales and through our draft budget are putting investments in place to do just that.
“Apprenticeships are the start of an exciting and rewarding career, giving people an opportunity to gain on the job experience while gaining all the skills and qualifications they need.
“We are already delivering one of the most successful apprenticeship programmes in Europe – the £260m we’re investing over the next two years will build on this and enable us to deliver our commitment of creating 100,000 all-age apprenticeships over the life of this Assembly term.”
Responding, Darren Millar AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, said: “This capital investment is a mere fraction of what colleges and universities have been calling for, but the announcement is at least a step in the right direction.
“The Welsh Government must now map out a long-term plan for sustainable higher and further education system which will equip Wales with the skills our nation needs to compete in a global world.”
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