Funding council support for part-time postgraduate study in Wales has been scrapped in the wake of government spending cuts.
The £6.5 million fund that was in the past distributed to universities annually by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales was removed after the Cardiff government reduced the organisation’s budget by £11 million.
In total, Hefcw plans to allocate £132.3 million to institutions in 2016-17. The amount of quality related research funding remains unchanged for the fifth year in a row at £71.1 million, while support for postgraduate research training, part-time undergraduate provision and higher cost full-time undergraduate courses stays largely the same year-on-year.
However, Hefcw warned that institutions could face a further in-year cut if the Welsh government withholds as much as £21.1 million of its 2016-17 budget. Ministers have said that they would use this to fund any increase in the cost of the tuition fee grant that subsidises Welsh students’ undergraduate studies in Wales and in the rest of the UK.
This is currently budgeted at £236.7 million but, if it went over this, Hefcw says that it would be forced to make further cuts to support for expensive undergraduate courses and, potentially, research and part-time funding.
Welsh institutions have expressed concern about the amount of funding that is being used to support students being charged £9,000 tuition fees at English universities.
David Blaney, Hefcw’s chief executive, said that the review of student finance in Wales being led by Sir Ian Diamond would “be critical to informing a future policy that provides a sustainable balance of investment between Welsh students and Welsh higher education providers”.
The loss of support for part-time postgraduate study means that some Welsh universities face significant percentage cuts in their total Hefcw funding. Cardiff Metropolitan University is set to lose 25.7 per cent of its grant (£623,000), while Glyndwr University will lose 20.4 per cent (£803,000).
The biggest loser in absolute terms is Cardiff University, which will see its funding reduced by £2 million (3.4 per cent).
“I cannot stress it enough: government expenditure on higher education is not just a cost, it is an investment in the future of Wales,” Dr Blaney said. “Universities are employers, educators, influencers and investors. Successful universities are an essential part of a strong and prosperous nation.”