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Written Statement - Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance Arrangements in Wales

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

On 18 November 2013, I announced that I had asked Professor Sir Ian Diamond, current Vice Chancellor of Aberdeen University, to chair a Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance Arrangements in Wales. I also announced that an expert panel would be established to support Sir Ian and given the importance and wide-ranging scope of the Review that I would be inviting political parties in Wales to nominate individuals to join the Review Panel.

The Review commenced in April 2014.  On 18 December 2015, I published the Review Panel's interim report, which provides a factual summary of evidence considered by the Panel from April 2014 to September 2015.  The Review is ongoing and is making good progress. Sir Ian will provide his final report by September 2016.

In the course of its work, the Review Panel has received a range of evidence relating to skills and the economy, further education and vocational training.  Much of this evidence has highlighted the need for a more joined-up approach, and enhanced progression routes, between further and higher education.  I believe that it would be helpful if the Review Panel were able to consider more closely these matters as part of its formal remit.  I have, therefore, approved the extension of the Review's terms of reference to include the following:  

  • to advise and where appropriate make recommendations about:
    • the financial support for students and the funding of HE provision in institutions engaged in access and foundation level programmes.
    • the financial support for students and the funding of HE provision in institutions engaged in higher national certificates, higher national diplomas, foundation degrees and degrees where these intermediate or terminal awards are classified as apprenticeships and/or involve a significant component of provision/assessment in workplaces. 
    • the most effective/appropriate form of accreditation, franchise and validation arrangements between higher education and further education institutions.

This will allow the Review Panel to make recommendations that take into account more fully the links between further and higher education.  

The following individuals, with expertise in these matters, have agreed to be co-opted members of the Further Education Panel (FE Panel) for the Review.

  • Judith Evans, Chair of Colegau Cymru/College Wales.  Principal and Chief Executive of Coleg y Cymoedd;
  • Barry Liles, Principal of Coleg Sir Gâr.  Appointed by the Welsh Government in 2010 as Skills Champion for Wales.  Member of the Strategy Board of the South West Wales Regional Learning Partnership.  Board Member of the Swansea Bay City Region.

The FE Panel will act as a sub group to the main Review Panel. The following representatives from the main Review Panel will also attend the FE Panel:

  • Professor Sir Ian Diamond, (Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and HE Review Panel Chair);
  • Glyn Jones OBE (CEO, Grŵp Llandrillo Menai; Colleges Wales Board Member; HE Review Panel Member);
  • Gary Griffiths (Former Head of Early Careers Programmes, Airbus UK; and HE Review Panel Member; and
  • Rob Humphreys, CBE (Director for Wales, Open University; Vice Chair of Universities Wales; HE Review Panel Member).

The full revised Terms of Reference for the Review are attached at Annex A.
I encourage those with an interest in matters relating to the extended remit to forward their views to Sir Ian. All correspondence should be directed in the first instance to the HE Review mailbox at: HEReview@wales.gsi.gov.uk.


Annex A

Review Panel Updated Terms of Reference

The Review Panel will consist of a Chair and panel members that are expert and experienced in their field and have a deep understanding of matters relating to higher education (HE) sector funding and student finance arrangements.

Role:

The Panel is required to conduct a wide-ranging review of HE sector funding and student finance arrangements. It will begin its work in the Spring of 2014 and produce by September 2016 a report for the Minister for Education and Skills that provides clear advice and costed recommendations for the future funding of the HE sector and student finance arrangements in Wales.  

The Panel’s recommendations will need to be deliverable, affordable and sustainable.  

Focus:

The Review will focus on issues relating to:

  • the promotion of social mobility and widening access to higher education;
  • the promotion of postgraduate learning opportunities in Wales and for Welsh domiciled students;
  • the funding of higher education in the light of continuing constraints on public expenditure; 
  • full-time and part-time tuition fees policy;
  • cross-border HE funding policy and arrangements;
  • student finance arrangements (including maintenance support for HE and further education FE students, with an emphasis on supporting learners from the lowest income backgrounds and most deprived communities in Wales); 
  • funding routes (AME, near cash and non cash);
  • the Higher Education Funding Council Wales’ role in the delivery of student finance; 
  • student debt;
  • to advise and where appropriate make recommendations about:
    • the financial support for students and the funding of HE provision in institutions engaged in access and foundation level programmes.
    • the financial support for students and the funding of HE provision in institutions engaged in higher national certificates, higher national diplomas, foundation degrees and degrees where these intermediate or terminal awards are classified as apprenticeships and/or involve a significant component of provision/assessment in workplaces. 
    • the most effective/appropriate form of accreditation, franchise and validation arrangements between higher education and further education institutions.

Key Considerations:

The review will need to consider medium and longer-term policy options and funding, including any potential for savings incentive schemes to provide a more sustainable future model of HE funding and to help reduce levels of student debt.

The review will also need to consider:

  • current legislation and options for reform; 
  • the financial implications of any proposed models for Welsh Government, HM Treasury, students, HEFCW and the HE sector in Wales; 
  • operational delivery systems involving HEFCW, the Student Loans Company, Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and other UK bodies;
  • alternative policy approaches being adopted by other UK governments and internationally; 
  • the cross-border implications of any policy changes proposed for Wales (including possible legislative competence issues);
  • identified skills needs for Wales;
  • postgraduate provision and industry sector concerns and/or requirements; 
  • the extent to which current policy and funding arrangements support widening access, and what more can be done;
  • related further education (FE) sector developments, for example HE in FE activity.

Approach:

The Panel will gather and evaluate available data, research and other evidence. The Panel may need to commission research to address gaps in the available evidence base.  Close engagement with stakeholders will be a necessity.  

The Panel will have due regard to the Welsh Government’s broad priorities for HE in Wales as set out in the Welsh Government’s Policy Statement on Higher Education June 2013 which can be found in the related links.

Governance and working style:

Panel members will observe the seven principles of public life (selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership).
  • Conclusions and recommendations should be evidence-based, impartial, well-considered and robust. 
  • Records of Review Panel meetings and activities will be kept. Discussions will, however, be conducted with a protocol of confidentiality in order to promote genuine debate.