The Welsh recovery plan is refreshingly simple

This morning the Welsh government announced a £27m "Higher Education Investment and Recovery Fund for Wales".

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

This is not a huge sum, by any stretch of the imagination. The total expenditure of the Welsh sector in 2018-19 was around £1.8bn – in context £27m is about £10m less than the total income of Wrexham Glyndŵr in that academic year.

But what is interesting to note is the complex restrictions and requirements placed on the use of this money:

There are none.

The government is simply giving the money to HEFCW, to use as it sees fit. Imagine that – a government trusting a regulator to distribute money for the good of the sector and nation?

The recovery fund has been established, we are told:

to support universities to maintain jobs in teaching, research and student services, invest in projects to support the wider economic recovery, and support students suffering from financial hardship”

It’s a big ask from a comparatively small amount of money. But these are goals in which pretty much everyone agrees.

But it gets better.

Kirsty Williams says:

We will not have a full picture of the pandemic’s impact on universities until next term, but this funding will provide a vital support to our institutions in their preparations for the autumn. We will consider the situation and needs again in the autumn, to continue our support for the economic and social recovery from Covid-19″

So this can be seen as support for universities in preparing for the new term. Not the total support available against the damage the pandemic and lockdown have caused. Just an appreciation of the problems universities are facing and may be facing as the new academic year starts.

The decision on how to use these funds will be for HEFCW. Chief Executive David Blaney told us:

The Welsh Government recognises the importance of a strong higher education sector through this investment. The resilience of higher education providers is of the utmost importance for the students choosing, and going through, the system in Wales. They will expect not only a high quality student experience, but also universities that have prepared well for changes to teaching and learning for the 2020/21 academic year. This additional funding is a very welcome contribution by the Welsh Government to supporting the higher education sector in Wales in responding to the challenges presented by Covid-19″

It would seem sensible to delay the allocation of these funds until we can be clear where they are most needed and can do most good. This is in the hands of a regulator that is close to the sector and generally well regarded by it. I would be surprised to see onerous conditions placed on how much money Welsh universities give SUs, for example.

If you are new to the English sector look on in wonder – this is how policy and funding used to work. If you are in the Welsh sector hope that this sensible and pragmatic approach isn’t lost in the shift to a more OfS style of regulator.

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