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Written Statement - Delay to the implementation of changes to part time student support

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

On 21 June 2011, I announced proposals for funding part-time higher education and a new package of support for part-time undergraduate students ordinarily resident in Wales. The aim of the proposals is to provide greater equity between full-time and part-time students in terms of tuition fee support.

Consultation on the new proposals lasted from 5 September until the 3 October and included a workshop with key stakeholders on the 20 September.

The Welsh Government received 32 written responses to the consultation paper.  The main messages were as follows:

• the vast majority of responses welcomed greater parity between full and part-time arrangements for fee support;
• the vast majority of responses requested a delay in implementation of the new part-time arrangements until the academic year 2013/2014 to allow for further consideration of the changes and their impact;
• there was general agreement that fee planning controls should apply across all modes of study;
• there was some concern that the sector could see a decrease in part-time study as a result of higher fees;
• there was some concern about the implications for students who fall outside the student support arrangements, in particular those under 25% study intensity, postgraduates, and students who have undertaken previous higher education study;
• some respondents argued that we need to consider further the potential role of employers and the potential impacts on employability and re-skilling;
• a clear communication strategy is needed to underpin any changes.

A consultation summary report is being prepared and will be published on the Welsh Government website. Members will informed when the summary is available.

I would like to thank everyone who responded to the consultation and who participated in the stakeholder event. The feedback received has been very helpful in informing how best to implement and further develop support for part-time students in Wales. It is clear that whilst stakeholders and delivery partners welcomed my announcement and the move towards greater parity between full-time and part-time study, there is strong support for a delay in implementation of the revised arrangements.

Having considered the consultation responses, I have decided to postpone implementation of a revised system for part-time higher education tuition fees and student support until academic year 2013/14. I am keen to use this period to reflect on the changes that we have introduced in Wales during the past twelve months and to analyse more closely the impact that future changes will have on part-time study in Wales. 

In the meantime, I want to continue to encourage part-time study in Wales in line with the aims of For our Future. I can confirm that the existing support package currently available to Welsh domiciled part-time students will remain in place for academic year 2012/2013.

Therefore, eligible part-time students will continue be able to apply for:
• a means-tested Fee Grant;
• a means-tested Course Grant; and
• other means-tested targeted support in the form of Childcare Grant, Adults Dependent Grants and Parents Learning Allowance.