Welsh universities should benefit from a £37 million funding boost in 2013-14 because of a net inflow of undergraduates to the country from the rest of the UK, figures show.
Data from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales indicate that the country’s universities could receive an income boost of about 10 per cent as a result of the new tuition fee regime in England and Wales despite initial fears that it would impoverish the Welsh academy.
Information on funding allocations released by the council on 10 April predict that in 2013-14, it will disburse £50 million in tuition fee payments to Welsh students leaving Wales to study elsewhere in the UK. But Welsh universities will receive £87 million in tuition fees from students from the rest of the UK, creating a surplus of £37 million for the country, about a tenth of the academy’s total income.
The Hefcw figures predict that in 2013-14 the country’s institutions should see their overall income grow by 13.6 per cent, or £44.3 million, as a result of rising fee income.
Like their English counterparts, Welsh universities have set variable tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year. But Welsh students will next year have to pay only the first £3,575 of their fees, with the Cardiff government making up the difference.
A spokesman for the Welsh government said that its current modelling “suggests that Wales will continue to be a net importer of students for the foreseeable future”.
The country’s surplus in fee income for 2012-13 is expected to be about £15 million, according to a spokeswoman for Hefcw, which is less than the £21 million it predicted this time last year.
According to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, in 2012 a total of 9,775 students from the rest of the UK were accepted at Welsh universities, the vast majority from England.
In contrast, 7,432 Welsh students left to study in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland: a net inflow of 2,343 students to Wales.
This figure could get even bigger next academic year, as Ucas statistics released after the main 15 January deadline for 2013 entry show that the number of applicants from England to Welsh universities was up by 10.1 per cent, while Welsh applicants to England were down 0.5 per cent.
In 2011, David Warner, then vice-chancellor of Swansea Metropolitan University, said that Welsh universities feared there would be “nothing left in the Hefcw pot” because of the cost of funding Welsh students going to England.
But the Welsh surplus should be even larger in 2014-15, because by then the vast majority of undergraduates will be subject to the new fees regime.
In the long term, however, student loan repayments to the Welsh government could be lower because they are covering the majority of Welsh student fees.
A spokesman for Higher Education Wales, part of Universities UK, said that there was “considerable uncertainty about how the student market will continue to respond to these changes in reality and [about] the future pattern of cross-border flows”.