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Back on the Agenda: Student Fees for UK Students

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English universities have seen a rise in applications from Welsh students by almost 20%. The same percentage less of young Welsh people are choosing to stay in Wales when embarking upon higher education.

Whereas in 2010 a total number of 42,150 Welsh students applied to study at English universities, by 2012 this had risen to 50,180.

The Welsh Government offer all Welsh students a grant wherever they choose to go to university, meaning that the students only ever have to pay the first £3,500 of tuition fees. This means that for every welsh student studying outside of Wales, the Welsh government must foot the bill of up to £4,500.

On BBC Wales’ Sunday Politics programme, Jessica Taylor from Cardiff, a first-year politics student at Bristol said, ‘It had less of an impact on my decision [on where to study] because it didn't matter whether it was an English university or a Welsh university that I went to, the fees would have been the same wherever I went, so it took away that aspect – it meant I could choose a university on merit. If I had to pay more in the future when I paid back my tuition fees if I came to England, I think I would have considered a Welsh university.’

The Wales Parliament Opposition has said that Welsh universities are now losing out and the policy should be re-evaluated to match this rising exodus. In response, the Welsh Government has said that their scheme is the most equitable yet as it allows Welsh teenagers to choose where they study, free from the factor of price.

There is however to be a review into how Welsh university students are funded in the future. The opposition in the Welsh government is naturally pleased with this result.

Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns has told the BBC that the Welsh Conservatives had ‘played a key role’ in preventing Labour ministers from ‘kicking the pressing issue of higher education funding into the long grass … Labour's current tuition fee subsidy is unsustainable, is a drain on taxpayers and is sending tens of millions of pounds to English universities, so I am hopeful that this review will be able to recommend a suitable replacement.’

In the Highlands

The question of student fees is being debated elsewhere across the UK. The Isle of Man recently postponed a vote on introducing student fees due to wide-spread protest, and in Scotland a group of academics have this month spoken out and said that independence from the rest of the UK is the only way to secure free higher education for the Scottish.

The group of around 60 well renowned academics spoke against the ‘marketised’ HE system elsewhere in the UK and together signed up to the new pro-independence group.

Getting by

Despite the fear of higher student fees in Wales and Scotland, the number of students from all backgrounds in England applying to university has continued to rise despite the introduction of higher student fees in 2012. Many students however are still struggling to get by while at university having to rely on discount sites such as www.voucherbox.co.uk, and take up part-time jobs, something that is common in the States, but has not always been the way in the UK.

A recent story that made headlines was when the charity Blast reported that male students have taken to selling their bodies for sex to finance them through university. Whether or not these claims were founded, a greater concern for the government is how many of these students will be in a position to pay that money back in years to come, regardless of what they are doing now.




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