On 3 March 2016 the Welsh Government published a consultation which proposed introducing a postgraduate loan scheme for students ordinarily resident in Wales for the academic year 2017/18. The Unis Wales response can be found here.
On 8 February Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, confirmed that Welsh Government it is able to implement a scheme, subject to appropriate legislation being made. It is anticipated that the scheme will comprise a loan of £10,280 for students ordinarily resident in Wales undertaking taught or research courses leading to the award of a Master’s degree. The course may be full or part time and based anywhere in the United Kingdom. Support will be available to students beginning courses on or after 1 August 2017 only. The full and final details of the proposed loan will be made public when draft regulations are laid with the National Assembly in the spring of 2017.
UUK Brexit briefing
Ahead of the start of Brexit negotiations, Universities UK, with contributions from Universities Wales, has produced a briefing paper setting out what the government’s priorities should be to help universities maximise their contribution to a successful and global UK post-exit.
It outlines three stages for these priorities: short-term transitional arrangements; the exit negotiations; and domestic policy change.
The briefing makes clear to the government that the positive contribution of UK higher education to society and the economy will be greatest if British universities are magnets for international talent, are welcoming to international students, and are leaders in international research collaboration.
The Welsh Government published its apprenticeship policy document and five year plan on 7th February 2017 (see here).
The Apprenticeship Levy, a UK Government employment tax, is due to come into effect on 6 April 2017. In particular, the Welsh Government highlights that it will be increasing its investment in apprenticeships from £96m to £111.5m for 2017-18. Of the additional funding, £15.5m will be invested to ensure that both public and private sector employers are not disadvantaged as a result of the Apprenticeship Levy.
Higher Education and Research Bill update
The date of the Report Stage in the House of Lords has been confirmed as 6 March 2017. This will give a further opportunity for the Lords to consider amendments.
The Children, Young People and Education Committee published its Report on the Supplementary Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) for the Higher Education and Research Bill on 9 February 2017 (see here). The LCM concerned amendments relating to financial support for students and student complaints, which will also apply to Wales. The Committee reported that it had no concerns with the approach being taken.
A debate was held during Tuesday’s Plenary session on the recently published Welsh Government / Plaid Cymru White Paper on transitioning from the European Union: ‘Securing Wales’ Future’. During the debate Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) mentioned the importance of migration in driving the Welsh economy and universities, while Mark Isherwood (North Wales) said he welcomed the UK Government White Paper claiming it will “ensure the UK builds on its strong global position in research and innovation excellence”. Julie Morgan (Cardiff North) reiterated the importance of international students in creating a thriving university sector in Wales, while Andrew RT Davies (South Wales Central) called for UK frameworks to be “created for agriculture, structural funds and university funding”.
The Welsh Conservatives held Plenary debates on Further Education and Economic Development during Wednesday’s session, with the FE debate featuring discussions around the Hazelkorn Review and the relationship between HE and FE.
Unis Wales Update
This week we prepared a briefing for the plenary debate on economic development as our universities will be play a key part in this for Wales. We have been putting the finishing touches to our Diamond Review consultation response and celebrating both our Director Amanda and Assistant Director Lisa’s birthdays!