The Welsh Government has today ( Wednesday 22 July) announced additional funding of more than £50 million for universities and colleges.
The support is part of the Welsh Government’s actions to support students and Wales’ major education institutions and provide the skills and learning in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus.
£27 million will be provided to higher education institutions, with £23 million to support students in FE colleges and sixth forms.
£27 million will be provided to universities through a Higher Education Investment and Recovery Fund for Wales, to maintain teaching and research in the 2020 to 2021 academic year.
The Recovery Fund will be established to support universities to maintain jobs in teaching, research and student services, invest in projects to support the wider economic recovery, and support students suffering from financial hardship.
Although the latest UCAS figures on university applications showed an increase in applications to Welsh universities from 18 year olds, the coronavirus may lead to some students deferring their applications until next year.
A number of Welsh universities also have concerns over a potential decline in international students and a fall in revenues from student accommodation, as well as a potential fall in research investment from private and charitable sources.
Further education and sixth forms
Over £15 million will be provided for learners beginning their A level or vocational course at an FE college or sixth form, to increase teaching support following their time away from their education setting earlier this year and to help with their transition to post-16 learning. The funding will be provided for all full-time learners between 16 and 19 years and represents a 5 per cent increase to funding-per-student.
Up to £5 million will be provided to support vocational learners to return to college to help them achieve their licence-to-practice qualifications, without needing to re-sit the full year.
An extra £3.2 million will be used to provide digital equipment such as laptops for FE students. An additional £466,000 will be provided to support students undertaking Independent Living Skills programmes, to enable them to complete their transition from college into employment and independence. £100,000 will also be provided to support regional mental health and wellbeing projects and professional development in Local Authority Community Learning.
Kirsty Williams, the Education Minister, said:
Our universities and colleges here in Wales are world-class, both for their research and for student life. The most recent student survey, published last week, showed yet again that Welsh universities poll ahead of the UK for student satisfaction.
Our colleges and universities are stewards of place. Each one across the nation, and working together, will be important in our recovery as they work with schools, business, international partners and public services.
So we are supporting these major institutions in Welsh life, so that they can support students of all ages, and keep playing their part in our recovery.
We will not have a full picture of the pandemic’s impact on universities until next term, but this funding will provide a vital support to our institutions in their preparations for the autumn.
Our support for 16-19 age students aims to ensure students beginning courses in September are not disadvantaged by the disruption they faced earlier this year, and is part of our wider measures to ensure we have a skilled workforce that will drive forward the economic recovery from the coronavirus.
We will consider the situation and needs again in the autumn, to continue our support for the economic and social recovery from COVID-19.
The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans, said:
Our universities and colleges are major employers within their communities, and provide the skills and knowledge which are vital for economic growth.
This support is part of the Welsh Government’s action to support students and enable Wales’ major education institutions to deliver employability and skills, which will be so important in the reconstruction phase.
This package of measures will enable institutions to support young people to complete and continue learning that may have been disrupted by Covid-19, and support those who may have otherwise sought employment to stay in education to further improve their employability and skills.