How long will the Assembly subsidy to Welsh students last?The Welsh government's plan to hold annual fees at Welsh universities down to £4,000 lies in tatters. University of Wales in Newport became the latest university in Wales to announce an annual fee of £9,000. Incredibly it will now cost £27,000 to get a basic degree at Newport. No Welsh universities have announced an upper level less than £9,000 per year.
The rush by the universities to charge such huge fees will put in jeopardy the Assembly government's promise to hold down fees to £3,400 for Welsh students
Glyn Matthews from Youth Fights For Education called for the NUS and NUS Wales to step up the campaign to defeat the UK government’s fee campaign. “There is no way I could have afforded £27,000 to go to University of Glamorgan. Even £3,400 a year is very steep but if the subsidy is reduced then thousands of working class people will be priced out of education”
Edmund Schluessel a member of Cardiff University UCU (lecturer's union) said “This exposes Leighton Andrews' claim of a "Welsh approach" to education as the same scam as in England, in a differently-coloured wrapper. Talk of removing the rebate for Welsh-domiciled students meanwhile shows that rebate to be another sham, a pre-election promise which the Socialist Party predicted months ago Labour would not keep.
"Aberystwyth University openly admits £7500 fees would keep their books balanced but charged £9000. These vice chancellors are tin pot CEOs, cheerleaders for the worst excesses of the City.
"Meanwhile, as the whole higher education sector licks its chops at the prospect of these billions of pounds coming in, they continue their assault on the providers of education, with lecturers offered an insulting 0.31% pay rise and assaults on pension systems ongoing as trade unionists are victimised and jobs are slashed by the thousand.
"The market has no place in education. Money from tuition fees has not gone to better education and it will not now”
It is clear that university vice chancellors in Wales have a completely different agenda from the majority of Welsh society and the Welsh government is being led by the nose by these profit-driven executives. The VCs are awarding themselves six figure salaries while courses are cut, jobs lost, working class students get 30 hours a week jobs to get through their course and lecturers lose 18% of their salaries in real terms. Welsh universities are being turned into businesses that will service the wealthy. They will have very little to do with Wales or welsh society and have no sense of serving the community
Welsh universities should be brought under public control and run by elected representatives from our communities. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales should be wound up and replaced with a public body that is genuinely accountable to the people of Wales.
If the Welsh government does cut its subsidy it would show that it is Westminster, not Cardiff Bay, that controls Welsh education policy. Wales would be forced to adopt a similar higher education model as England with high fees combined with bursaries for a few “deserving poor” students. In effect this would be a return to the pre-war model of the rich having open access to university regardless of ability while working class students go cap in hand to bursary boards to plead their case for lower fees. The “scholarship children” of the Victorian era would be back in the 21st century.
This debacle is a result of the Welsh government meekly accepting the cuts passed on by the ConDem government. Many people in Wales have put the blame on the ConDems for the cuts more than the Welsh government, but that was before the cuts have hit. As the Welsh government initiates more cuts this mood could change.
Socialist Party Wales believes that the Welsh government should not passively pass on devastating cuts. The futures of thousands of Welsh young people will be devastated by the fees increases as they are barred from a university education. The Assembly should initiate a mass campaign together with trade unions, students, service users, disabled organisations, carers and working class people as a whole in Wales to resist all the cuts.
Welsh Labour’s strategy has been to complain about the cuts but to implement them. Undoubtedly part of the rational behind this approach is the Labour leadership’s belief that “cuts are necessary” but wants the Tories to carry out the messy work while Welsh Labour washes its hands of them. But with its university strategy in tatters and whispers that EMA might also be threatened in Wales the Welsh government will not be able to escape responsibility for its policy forever. NHS cuts in Wales will be even more devastating with an 11% cut budgeted for compared to 4% in England. Working class people in Wales will have no option but to fight to retain basic provision and the Welsh government had better get out of the way.
Dave Reid, Secretary Socialist Party Wales