This article is more than 6 years old

New Welsh support package equates to the National Living Wage

Excerpt: Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Welsh government, outlines the next step in the journey since their own “major review”.
This article is more than 6 years old

Kirsty Williams is Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Welsh government and Liberal Democrat AM for Brecon and Radnorshire.

First time undergraduates from Wales who are starting either a part- or full-time course will, from this September, be the first to benefit from a new, enhanced financial support package.

It is designed to ease living-cost pressures and to widen access to higher education, following recommendations of Wales’s own “major review” of higher education funding in 2017, led by Professor Sir Ian Diamond. The review found that living costs were the main barrier for those making the choice about whether to go to university or not.

Money in students’ pockets this year

Living costs, the money in their pockets – rather than fees – is where students most feel the pinch. Our new system ensures that all eligible undergraduates starting university this September will have enough money to cover their cost of living. They will receive support that is equivalent to the National Living Wage (which will be £5.90 for those aged 18 to 20, £7.38 for 21 to 24 year-olds, and £7.83 for those 25 and over). This support is made up of an overall mix of grants and loans, with the highest level of grant support going to those most in need.

Tailored according to need

The support package is a fair system that is means-tested. Every eligible student will have a basic minimum grant of £1,000 per year, which they do not have to pay back. Students from homes with the lowest household income will receive the highest grant – up to £10,124 in London, and £8,100 in the rest of the UK.

We will also introduce similar support for postgraduate students in 2019, and continue to provide them with bursaries in the meantime. 

In the current system, the average household income for a means-tested student is around £25,000. Under our new system, such a student will receive around £7,000 a year in a grant that they won’t need to repay.

It’s not just those from the lowest-income households who are deterred from going to university. Living costs, and the anxiety and stress caused by having to make ends meet, can affect even those on modest household incomes, with some students unable to complete their course because of a lack of financial support.

Our new student finance package will support widening access and retention of students from all backgrounds, including those from poorer backgrounds and the squeezed middle-income families.

The table below shows the overall consistent level of support for living costs, made up of means-tested grants and loans, which will be available to new full-time students from all backgrounds in Wales. For comparison, the means-tested loan for living costs that will be available to students from England is also shown.

Support for new full-time undergraduates in 2018/19*

* based on a student living away from home (not London) while they study

Household income (£) From Wales  From England 
Grant (£)Loan (£)Total support (£)Grant (£)Loan (£)Total support (£)

Sources: Student Finance Wales and Student Loans Company

Part-time students won’t be forgotten in Wales

A key feature of the Welsh Government’s reforms is that the redistribution of grant support will be used to provide comparable living costs support to new part-time students, again in line with the recommendations of the Diamond Review. The table below provides an example of the support that will be available to such students from Wales. Again, for comparison, the means-tested loan provided to part-time students from England is shown.

Support for new part-time undergraduates in 2018/19*

* based on a student living at home, studying at 50% intensity

Household income (£) From Wales  From England 
Grant (£)Loan (£)Total support (£)Grant (£)Loan (£)Total support (£)

Sources: Student Finance Wales and Student Loans Company

Background shouldn’t limit opportunity

We want to make sure that anyone who wishes to go to university, no matter what their background or financial circumstances, can follow their aspirations. University shouldn’t just be an option for those who can afford it.

Many people study part-time while working, while juggling other commitments to further their career, to change career, or to pursue a subject they are interested in. Part-time study provides flexibility to fit study around other commitments. Importantly, part-time students can earn money while they study without the need to stop working.

That is why we are delivering a similar support package – on a pro-rata basis – for part-time students. All too often the debate about student finance focuses on the traditional full-time eighteen-year-old, and excludes other learners. We have come up with a solution that delivers for all.

We have taken the tough – but correct – decision to focus on living costs, rather than providing a fee grant, to help students make a positive choice about going to university. We will, of course, continue to provide a fee loan as well, to ensure that there are no upfront costs for eligible students.

We are proud of the fact that Welsh students applying for either a part- or full-time undergraduate course will benefit from the most generous student package in the UK. I would urge other governments to study the path that we have chosen, and to join us in making the radical changes necessary to allow all students, potential students, and the economy to benefit.

The Welsh Government is running a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the new student support package. For more information, visit

Leave a Reply