Education looms large in battle for Wales

April 16, 1999

Welsh nationalists have promised a flagship Welsh-language university if they are successful in the elections for the National Assembly next month.

Plaid Cymru, which is expected to be the second biggest party in the assembly, has asked the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales to conduct a feasibility study for the proposal.

The nationalists hope to increase the relevance of university activities to the country's needs and priorities by encouraging Welsh students to study in Wales and increasing collaboration among institutions.

In the 16 to 19-year-old sector, the party has pledged to pilot a Welsh baccalaureate by 2000, which would become the main qualification for 18-year-olds.

In a rival manifesto, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to ensure parity of funding between sixth-forms and further education colleges and to increase college accountability.

Labour's manifesto, which was due to be published as The THES went to press, is expected to focus on the fundamental shake-up of post-16 education launched by Welsh minister Peter Hain earlier this month. This would see all post-school, non-university education and training administered and funded through a single agency, the Community Consortium for Education and Training.

* Scottish secretary Donald Dewar, unveiling the Labour Party's manifesto for the Scottish Parliament this week, said education was its top priority.

"By the end of our parliament, there will be 750,000 places for students in college or university," Mr Dewar said.

Labour has pledged to invest an extra Pounds 444 million in further and higher education.

The Scottish Socialist Party has called for the restoration of student grants to pre-1979 levels, the abolition of tuition fees and free student accommodation.

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