Wales confirms student support for 2024-25 – but there’s something odd going on

There’s something strange going on in Wales.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

On Friday afternoon we got confirmation via a statutory instrument and explanatory memorandum that undergraduates from Wales will have their maintenance entitlements uprated in line with increases to the National Living Wage.

It’s the method that was introduced following Wales’ Diamond review in the last decade, a similar method was used to calculate the target for the Scottish government to reach by the end of its parliament, and it’s the method proposed by the Augar review in England – which remains a recommendation that the Westminster government has never even bothered to respond to, let alone implement.

So taking next year’s 21 and over NLW rate of £11.44, multiplying it by 37.5 as a representation of hours and multiplying it by 30 weeks to represent term time should mean that the total “pound in your pocket” for the poorest undergraduates from Wales (away from home and outside of London) will be £12,870 – an increase of 9.8 per cent.

Except… it won’t be. The explanatory memorandum says that the total amount of maintenance support will increase by just 3.7 per cent, and the statutory instrument confirms that the max loan will be £11,150 – which when coupled with the minimum grant component (which remains frozen), comes to £12,150.

That would be a cut to what we were expecting of some £720 a year.

I have no idea how the memo is maintaining that the increase in maintenance support is in line with the forecast value of the National Living Wage – because the NLW is definitely going up by more than that. We’ve asked the Welsh Government and will append an answer when we get one.

The absence this year of an accompanying press release from Jeremy Miles (who presumably is busy trying to win the leadership of the Welsh Labour Party) means we don’t have an accompanying explanation either, at least not yet.

It will still mean, of course that Wales is way out ahead for the poorest students, unless you count Scottish students living at home:

Away, London Away, not London At Home
From Wales




From England




From Scotland





The NLW 3.7 per cent (which doesn’t appear to be 3.7 per cent, but still) only applies to the total maximum UG grant + loan – and so another slight of hand (albeit one also used last year) is that all of the other uprating in the system (covering Grants for Dependants including the Childcare Grant, the Disabled Student’s Grant and the total value of Doctoral loans) is only going up by RPIX.

The problem here is that the Welsh Government is using the OBR projection for RPIX in Q1 of 2025 from last March – which was 0.9 per cent – rather than the OBR’s most recent projection of RPIX (used last week by the Westminster government for English students) of 2.5 per cent. Naughty.

And conspicuous by its absence is any mention of changes to postgraduate taught funding – the intention announced in December’s discussion over the Welsh budget was to switch that entirely to loan rather than a hybrid of loan and grant, but there’s nothing in the SI or the accompanying memorandum on whether it’s going up in total (and in fact nothing on the switch to full debt).

It was always going to be the case that Wales’ more generous student finance package would come under pressure – but it would be nice for ministers to announce how and why before laying SIs that make it meaner.


On Monday, a spokesperson for the Welsh Government said:

“The rate of undergraduate maintenance support in Wales will increase by 3.7% for the 2024/25 academic year for new students, as well as for students who are continuing on a course which they started on or after 1 August 2018. The level of undergraduate maintenance support is linked to the National Living Wage (NLW). The increase to maintenance support in 2024/25 is based on a NLW value of £10.80, compared to £10.42 for the 2023/24 academic year.

We understand that the WG’s policy for applying the NLW is to use the value proposed in the March of the preceding year. But what’s puzzling about that is that the Low Pay Commission’s consultation on the NLW for this year said that it anticipated the anticipated the NLW to be between £10.90 and £11.43, with a central estimate of £11.16. It remains unclear as to where its £10.80 has come from. It’s also not clear why it couldn’t;’t have used Jeremy Hunt’s guess from October. And students will want to know the steps that the WG will take to correct the problem given the risk of compounding the error – as we’ve seen in recent years over the RPIX projections used in England’s maintenance system…

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