Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
The Higher Education (Wales) Bill has been laid today, 19 May 2014.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for a revised regulatory system for higher education institutions and other providers of higher education in Wales that have a fee and access plan in force, as approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). It is intended that courses of higher education offered by such institutions and providers will be automatically designated for the purposes of Welsh Government statutory student support. The Welsh Government considers that the improved regulatory controls will better protect the interests of students, taxpayers and Welsh society.
The Bill will enable HEFCW to continue to exercise regulatory controls over the education delivered in Wales by those institutions and providers without reliance on the provision of financial support to those bodies.
It is proposed that it will be for institutions and providers in Wales to decide whether to apply to HEFCW for approval of a fee and access plan. In respect of those institutions and providers which have an approved plan in force, the Bill provides HEFCW with functions which will:
- enable HEFCW to enforce tuition fee controls and fee and access plan requirements (Part 2 of the Bill);
- require HEFCW to assess the quality of higher education provision and enable them to take steps in relation to inadequate quality (Part 3 of the Bill); and
- require HEFCW to prepare and publish a code relating to the organisation and management of the financial affairs of such institutions and providers and enable them to take steps in relation to failure to comply with the new code (Part 4 of the Bill).
Many of the obligations that the Bill will place on institutions and providers which have a fee plan in force will be similar to those presently imposed by HEFCW and enforced through terms and conditions of funding. The Bill will also provide for strengthening of HEFCW’s monitoring and enforcement functions relating to equality of opportunity in connection with access to higher education.
The changes introduced by the Bill will ensure that students, taxpayers and Welsh society continue to receive assurance about the quality of Welsh higher education, that equality of opportunity in connection with access to higher education in Wales continues to be prioritised, that fee limits continue to be enforced and that HEFCW can continue to provide assurance about the financial management of institutions.