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Written Statement - The Wales Audit Office Report on Higher Education Finances

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

A report on Higher Education Finances was released today by the Wales Audit Office (WAO). I am grateful to the WAO for its work in compiling a report that covers a number of wide ranging and complex issues.

I welcome the WAO’s finding that the finances of Welsh higher education institutions are in sound health and that both the Welsh Government and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) have implemented policy around tuition fees effectively. It is clear from this report that the tuition fee policy introduced by this Government in 2012-13 has helped to place higher education institutions in Wales in a sound financial position, able to face the future with confidence.

This report vindicates our stance on funding for Welsh universities and financial support for Welsh students. The evidence presented confirms that our tuition fee policy is affordable and sustainable for the lifetime of this Government and beyond. The WAO has also confirmed that HE institutions in Wales will continue to benefit from higher levels of income as a result of the reforms we have introduced while at the same time students who live in Wales will accrue significantly lower levels of debt than their counterparts in England. Those are major achievements at a time when Wales is facing unprecedented reductions in public expenditure imposed by the government in Westminster.

On 18 November, I announced proposals for an independent review of higher education funding and student finance arrangements in Wales, to be led by Professor Sir Ian Diamond.  This report provides important evidence which will help to inform future thinking.

The Welsh Government will reply formally to the WAO’s findings and recommendations in due course.