Welsh fee policy ‘drains £15m’ from country

The Cardiff government’s policy of subsidising Welsh student fees when they study elsewhere in the UK has been attacked by the Welsh Conservatives, who say it is siphoning money to English universities.

July 3, 2013

A total of 2,778 Welsh-domiciled students attend the universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Liverpool and Chester – the five most popular destinations – which with a £5,500 annual subsidy per student, equates to a £15.3 million drain from Wales to England, the party has argued.

Angela Burns, the shadow minister for education, said: “We are seeing the damaging effects [the policy] is having on our universities by sending much needed resources over the border and makes it even more difficult to raise standards.

“These figures reveal just how much our higher education sector is losing to universities in England simply because Labour Ministers want to play party politics.”

Welsh students do pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 when they study in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, but the Welsh government covers the majority of their fees so that they do not have to contribute more than £3,500 a year.

A Welsh government spokesman responded by acknowledging that a “significant” amount of grant was paid to Welsh students at English universities.

But he added: “Wales is a net importer of students from other parts of the UK. Institutions in Wales receive far more fee income from those students than we pay in fee grant to English institutions.”

In April, Times Higher Education revealedthat Wales was set to benefit from a £37 million income boost in 2013-14, because it took in more students from the rest of the UK than it sent out. 

The Welsh government spokesman added: “We believe we have a responsibility to all of our students wherever they choose to study in the UK.”

On 30 June Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, also questioned the Welsh government policy.

“The unfortunate by-product…is that effectively the Welsh government ends up funding English universities and I’m sure that wasn’t the intention originally of the money that was transferred to Wales from the UK Treasury,” he was reported as saying.

Unlike Wales, Scotland does not subsidise its students if they study elsewhere in the UK. However, a far smaller proportion of Scots leave the country than Welsh youngsters cross the border to study in England.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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