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Welsh Government £50m support for universities and colleges gets mixed responses

THE Education minister Kirsty Williams has announced that universities and colleges in Wales are to receive a £50m support package to soften the impact of the pandemic. £27m will be provided to higher education institutions with £23m to support students in further education colleges and sixth forms.

Ms. Williams in emphasising that the full impact of COVID on universities would not be known until September added:

“This funding will provide vital support to our institutions in their preparations for the autumn,” she added.

“So we are supporting these major institutions in Welsh life, so they can support students of all ages, and keep playing their part in our recovery.”

The Higher Education Investment and Recovery Fund for Wales aim to help maintain jobs in teaching, research, and student services, invest in economic recovery, and support students suffering financial hardship.

More than £15m will be provided for all full-time learners between 16 and 19 years of age beginning their A-level or vocational course at an FE college or sixth form, to increase support following the closure of schools and help with their transition to post-16 learning.

A further Up £5m will be provided to support vocational learners to return to college to complete license-to-practice qualifications, without needing to re-sit the full year. and an extra £3.2m will be used to provide digital equipment such as laptops for FE students.

“Our support for 16 to 19 age students aims to ensure students beginning courses in September are not disadvantaged by the disruption they faced earlier this year,” said Ms. Williams.

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. Whilst regional mental health and wellbeing projects and professional development receive £100,000.

Professor Julie Lydon of Universities Wales said the support was “vital” and comes at a “crucial moment” for universities and colleges. It was “providing stability for our universities and will be reassuring for students who have consistently rated the student experience in Wales as excellent,”

NUS Wales said the announcement gave institutions “much-needed certainty” and that “the funding for FE colleges goes a long way to alleviating our concerns about the disproportionate impact of the virus on vulnerable and digitally excluded students.”

But Becky Ricketts, President of NUS Wales expressed disappointment that the announcement failed to help students directly.

“It’s disappointing that this package does not include ring-fenced funding for student hardship, demand for which has increased during the pandemic and will only worsen in the coming months,” said NUS Wales President Becky Ricketts.

Plaid Cymru’s response was that the announcement was “long overdue and won’t go far enough”. Helen Mary Jones, the Shadow Economy Minister said that “whilst funding for higher and further education institutions in Wales is welcome, it isn’t clear whether this money is new or whether it is repackaged from previous education budgets”

She added, “the £15m set aside for further education will be insufficient in covering the £30-40 million cost that Colleges Wales estimates is needed for new, socially distanced teaching methods”


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