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Education

Labour seeks ‘nuanced changes’ to student finance

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Labour ‘dishonest’ on higher education fees: Simon Thomas

Labour ‘dishonest’ on higher education fees: Simon Thomas

A DECISION to kick announcements regarding the future of student finance in Wales made by former Education Minister Huw Lewis appears to have spectacularly backfired following comments made by former minister Julie James during a media interview.

Speaking at a Labour campaign event in Aberdare on Monday, Julie James, a Deputy Minister in the Education and Skills department of the last Welsh Government told BBC Wales: “We’re committed to continuing our current policy until Professor Diamond reports in the autumn.

“And then we’re committed to an evidence-based policy after that, with the commitment that Welsh students will always be better supported than their counterparts elsewhere.”

The Diamond report into Welsh Higher Education was commissioned as long ago as 2013 and a summary of evidence presented in December 2015 made uncomfortable reading for the then Welsh Government.

Speaking to The Herald at the time, Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas, a candidate in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said: “The report (by Professor Sir Ian Diamond) could not be clearer. All of those bodies which responded to it agreed that the current tuition fee policy is completely unsustainable.

“The evidence is overwhelming and unanswerable, but the Welsh Government has decided to wait until October and then probably feign surprise when it is told things have to change. The Welsh Government’s position on tuition fees is dishonest.”

Indeed, every education institution – including the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales – that provided evidence to Professor Diamond said that the Welsh Government’s commitment to its student finance policy – especially tuition fees – was damaging the Welsh higher education sector and was untenable.

On the campaign trail, Labour has been combative on the issue, claiming that only it will maintain the favourable settlement on tuition fees that Welsh undergraduate students have. Leighton Andrews, the former Minister who can always be depended on to stick a spoon in a pot and stir it, has even taken to social media to deride parties who have failed to commit to maintaining an unaffordable and wasteful policy.

Now, Ms James, a former minister who was actually in the Education and Skills ministry when Professor Diamond’ summary of evidence was released has hinted that Welsh Labour’s approach may change ‘depending on what Professor Diamond says’. In particular, Ms James has hinted that the Assembly Learning Grant (currently set at around £5,000) will be targeted by any new Welsh Labour Government as a way of making up the shortfall in subsidising tuition fees for Welsh students.

Ms James suggests that: “There might be nuanced changes.”

Taking the fight to Plaid and the Conservatives on student finance when one of its own candidates and a former minister has now hinted at change and, moreover, claimed that a future Welsh Labour Government’s policy will be determined by a report which it kicked back until after the election, has drawn predictable fire from both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives.

A Welsh Conservative spokesperson told The Herald: “Welsh Labour’s stance on this issue changes from one day to the next which is indicative of a party in complete disarray.

“Welsh Conservatives have long campaigned for a reform of Labour’s unsustainable tuition fee support policy and would introduce ‘Student Rent Rebate’, offering undergraduates timely and sustainable help with university living costs.

“We would further support students in reducing their debt by exploring the viability of fast-track degrees studied over two academic years.”

Responding to a Labour politician’s admission that the current level of support given to university students may be cut, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Education Minister Simon Thomas said: “This is the first sign that Labour politicians are realising that they cannot maintain the fiction of their tuition fee policy as it is.

“Plaid Cymru has always said that the current system is unsustainable and our manifesto has committed to a more sustainable model of funding, whereby students who live and work in Wales within five years of graduating will have £6,000 of their loans written-off, up to £18,000.

“Voters deserve an honest answer about Labour’s plans. Pretending that things won’t change is unsustainable and there will be a huge black hole in Labour’s budget if they don’t explain what they will do with their tuition fee policy.”

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Education

Half a million boost to Aberystwyth University’s new nursing education facilities

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A £500,000 grant from the Welsh Government will fund new facilities at Aberystwyth University for its nursing courses which will start in September this year.

The announcement comes six months after the University’s plans to offer nursing qualifications for the first time were given the go-ahead by Health Education and Improvement Wales.

The money will be used to invest in facilities at the University’s new Healthcare Education Centre, located opposite Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth.

The plans include capital works and the purchase of equipment to create a suite of high quality clinical practice rooms, as part of a £1.7 million University investment at the site.
The new centre will include a Clinical Skills Unit with high fidelity simulation areas that reflect the patient’s journey from home and community services through to assessment, planned and acute care.
Work on the facilities is due to be completed in March this year, in time for the first nursing students to begin their studies in September.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS said:

“The people who work in the NHS are its lifeblood. Investing in training and the future workforce is a priority for us. I’m delighted our funding is helping to support a new phase for Aberystwyth University in providing nursing training.

“The new facility provides students with invaluable training in a rural setting and builds on the work of CARER (Community and Rural Education Route) programme, giving them experience of working closely with clinicians and patients in community settings.

“Over the past five years training places for nurses have increased by 72% in Wales and we are pleased that we have retained the NHS bursary for student nurses to support people into a career in nursing.

“I look forward to visiting the new centre when it opens in the spring and meeting those starting out on the journey to be becoming a nurse”.

Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure added:

“During the pandemic, the work of our nurses, and that of other NHS and care workers, has been nothing short of extraordinary. It is a great honour that we will be educating nurses here in Aberystwyth for the first time this September.

“We are very grateful to the Welsh Government for this important investment to support the development. The funding will help ensure that the new students have access to the best resources and a high quality education when they start in September.

“The Healthcare Education Centre will benefit the local recruitment and retention of nurses in mid-Wales, and offer wider benefits to the area. It also has the potential to inspire new models of healthcare delivery. Supporting community needs, in close co-operation with our partners, is central to our civic mission; and establishing nursing education here is an important part of that. Our plans will also make an important contribution to enhancing mental health and Welsh-medium provision locally and beyond.

“A big thanks goes to everyone who has been a part of developing our plans to provide nursing education here – including the Welsh Government, the local health boards and Ceredigion County Council – without whom these exciting developments would not be possible.”

The proposals to establish nursing education were developed by Aberystwyth University in co-operation with a number of partners including the Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys local health boards as well as service users and carers.

The new degree courses will also offer students the opportunity to study up to half of their course through the medium of Welsh.

26 January this year is the closing date to apply to study as part of the first cohort of nursing students at Aberystwyth University.

More information is available by going to www.aber.ac.uk/en/hec

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Education

Funding for research on unarmed civilian protection in conflict areas

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South Sudan women peacekeeping team (copyright - non-violent peaceforce)

AN INTERNATIONAL research network led by Aberystwyth University is offering funding for research projects focusing on unarmed civilian protection in areas affected by conflict.

The Creating Safer Space network works with communities in conflict-affected regions to enhance and strengthen civilians’ capacities to protect themselves and others. It also aims to create safer spaces in which communities can build infrastructures for sustainable peace and development.

Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Professor in International Politics at Aberystwyth University explains:  “According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are now a record high of 82.5 million people forcibly displaced by violent conflict, and most deaths in conflicts are of civilians. The protection of civilians from physical harm in contexts of war and other political violence is therefore a pressing humanitarian issue of our time.

“Our Creating Safer Space research network focuses on the protection of civilians by civilians without the use or threat of force. Supporting and enhancing nonviolent protection provided by unarmed civilians has the potential to break cycles of violence and thus contribute to longer-term peacebuilding.

“As a research network, we are excited to be in the position to be able to invite applications for funding for research projects which will enhance our understanding of unarmed civilian protection and self-protection as effective civilian-to-civilian protection strategies; and how these practices can be strengthened to create safer space for more people living in conflict.”

The Creating Safer Space network intends to fund 15-20 research projects, ranging from £20,000 to £100,000 and varying in duration from 6 to 16 months. Projects must be led by organisations in the UK or in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

Further information about the grants, and how to apply is available at: 

Creating Safer Space

The deadline for applications is 15 April 2022.

The Creating Safer Space network works with communities in conflict-affected regions in Colombia, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan and elsewhere in the Global South. It also brings together a number of stakeholders including national and international unarmed civilian protection organisations, academics, artists, journalists and filmmakers, and the wider international policy community.

Creating Safer Space is led by Aberystwyth University in collaboration with the University of Antioquia (Colombia), Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), City University of New York (USA), Durham University, Leeds Beckett University and Strathmore University (Kenya).

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Education

Review to be held on the post-16 education provision in Ceredigion

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The last review on post-16 provision in Ceredigion took place in 2007-2008

A REVIEW will be held in the near future to gather information and facts about the post-16 education provision in Ceredigion.

The review will coincide with the reforms made through the establishment of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER), which is responsible for overseeing the post-16 sector in Wales, along with the recommendations made by Estyn Thematic Review on post-16 partnerships.

The last review on post-16 provision in Ceredigion took place in 2007-2008, therefore it was agreed during a Cabinet meeting held virtually on 11 January 2022 that it would be timely to undertake a further review.

Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “It is timely to conduct a review of post-16 provision to gather facts and views on what works and what can be developed.”

It was noted that there were 701 pupils in years 12 and 13 in all Ceredigion schools in January 2020. It was also added that less than 5 pupils were following 51 of the 199 A Level courses provided in Ceredigion schools during the academic year 2021-2022.

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