More power over fees likely

March 14, 2003

The Welsh Assembly is still in negotiations with Westminster over its bid to gain devolved powers on student funding, writes Tony Tysome.

Assembly education minister Jane Davidson wants a decision made soon on whether the assembly is given administrative responsibility for fees and grants. Such a move would allow it to ban top-up fees if it chose to do so, or set new fee and grant levels.

Ms Davidson said: "The policy decisions around higher education in Wales sit with the assembly. The power that remains with the UK government in terms of student support is an administrative power. I have agreed with Charles Clarke that it makes more sense that the UK government does not retain that power when it would better sit in Wales supporting our policy agenda for higher education."

Ms Davidson added that should powers be devolved, then any decision on whether Wales should follow England in the introduction of top-up fees would be a matter for the next assembly, due to be elected in May.

Welsh higher education institutions initially opposed top-up fees, but the prospect of English institutions gaining a significant financial advantage over them has made many reconsider the issue.

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