by Glyn Matthews
The Welsh Assembly plans to reorganise the way in which the funding of the Welsh assembly grant (WAG) is to be administered. The proposal is that from 2010 the top-up grant for fees will be scrapped and instead the WAG will simply constitute a larger maintenance grant. On the surface, this simply sounds like a bureaucratic and unnecessary change to the system without any damaging effects. If we analyse the proposals in more detail it is quite clearly an attack on education. Currently only a thirdof students in Wales are eligible to the maintenance grant but many more are eligible for the top-up fees grant. When this is gone they will not receive any part of the WAG as the are not changing the eligibility of the maintenance grant, leaving many students having to take out larger and larger loans to cover the cost of their loans.
The other side of this is those students who will lose the fees grant but will receive a higher maintenance grant. Once again on the surface this sounds fine. However, Jane Hutt the Welsh education minister said: “much of the £61m used currently to fund the tuition fee grants should be added to Assembly Learning Grants. These are means-tested grants available to help pay for students’ living costs.” This shows clearly two things, firstly this will mean a further extension of means testing in education which all socialists should oppose. Secondly without stating the amount of money involved is this new ‘scheme’ Jane Hutt does omit that not all £61m used now will then be used by using the word ‘much’ rather than ‘all’
Despite this, both the assembly government and Welsh universities have welcomed the proposal with all the Orwellian language they can muster by presenting this as an improvement. At this stage we can only speculate why, but clearly if the fees are not being paid for by the assembly any longer then it would open the door for Welsh universities to charge higher and higher top-up fees as this will no longer be a drain on the assembly budget. This clearly shows the need to take action now before it is too late!
The role of the NUS in all off this seems to be silence. There is absolutely no mention of this on the NUS website. Once again the NUS leadership has shown their inability to be a campaigning organisation leaving Socialist Students to take up issues without their backing.
- A fighting campaign led by NUS Wales to defeat these proposals.
- For an NUS organised demonstration in Cardiff with all Welsh universities students unions’ to provide transport to the demonstration.
- For the NUS nationally to back to campaign and extend the campaign to the rest of Britain by supporting the Campaign to defeat fees and the national demonstration on February 25th