For a few years now the policy in Wales has been to anchor the former in the latter – you take the 23 and over rate, multiply it by 37.5 as a representation of hours, multiply it by 30 weeks to represent term time, and that gets you to the £11,720 (which comes in a mix of loan and grant) announced today.
That method of determining the value of student financial support was recommended by the Augar review for England – although rather than responding to and formally rejecting the proposal, ministers just pretended that the chapter on student maintenance support didn’t exist.
What is to be a 9.4 per cent increase is obviously in sharp contrast to the 2.8 per cent uplift on the English maintenance loan announced last week – and drives the two countries even further apart than previously, given that next September a student away from home in Wales in a house share with a student away from home from England on the max loan will be getting £1,742 more to live on (outside of London).
And despite a big increase coming next September for the 25 per cent of students from Northern Ireland that study elsewhere in the UK, those from the poorest backgrounds from there will still be languishing on £8,315. There’s been no announcement from Scotland as yet.
We don’t really know the way in which any Barnett consequentials from the English decision have shaken out behind the scenes in Cardiff – and while Wales has undoubtedly the most generous package around the four nations, there are still real questions about affordability that the as yet unpublished Student Income and Expenditure Survey would help to answer.
In Wales, of course, all undergraduates can access the maximum package – although the precise mix of grant and loan depends on household income. No such luck in England, where the family earnings threshold over which you start to have less loan has been stuck at £25,000 since 2007.
That means fewer and fewer low income families can get the full amount every year – and now, thanks to a written question from Shadow Universities Minister Matt Western, we can see what sorts of percentages are in the trap.
Back in 2012, almost six in ten students were getting the maximum loan – that had fallen by ten percentage points by 2015, and by 2021 was just 37.5 per cent.
You’d have to hope at this stage – with all the rumours around over fees – that Labour might at least be prepping up to make a decent announcement on maintenance.