The Penarth Conservative Assembly Member Andrew R T Davies – talking about student grants in a BBC TV debate – has told the audience that he left school at 16 – and that Welsh Labour’s proposed tuition fee subsidies are “unaffordable”.
The Welsh Labour Party – aiming to continue its unbroken 19 years in power in the Welsh Assembly – has already ruled out introducing means-testing for university tuition-fee grants if the party is re-elected next month.
Last night in a special BBC TV programme Andrew R T Davies – who is Leader of the Welsh Conservative Party and is standing for the South Wales Central constituency – which includes Penarth – said Labour’s tuition fee subsidies were “unaffordable”.
Currently students from Wales studying in universities here or elsewhere in the UK only have to pay the first £3,810 a year of their tuition fees. The outstanding balance of up to £5,190 a year is paid for them by the Welsh Government – but the costs are imposing a crippling burden on the Welsh Government’s education budget.
Davies says that living costs are a bigger barrier to higher education than tuition fees and that if elected the Conservatives would replace the tuition-fee grants with “rent subsidies” instead but conceded that students “would end up with less” . He emphasised however that all the parties recognised that no Welsh Government could afford to continue with the present system – which will soon be costing taxpayers £250,000,000 a year – or £1,250,000,000 over 5 years.The Conservative scheme would cost £400,000,000 over 5 years
Andrew R T Davies said “All parties know that the current system is unaffordable.”
Davies told the TV audience “I’m not someone who had free higher education. I left school at 16. So ultimately what I want to see is parity with vocational education and academic education – and it is a fact that if you have a degree you will earn more in the workplace. But one thing students keep telling us is that one of the biggest obstacles when they go to university is the cost of living and those up front costs that they cannot meet”
The Conservative proposals are to pay – in advance – half of the rent of students from Wales, wherever they study in the UK – but support would not be paid for those living at home with their parents whilst studying ut means testing for university tuition fee grants if the party remains in power after the election in May.
Plaid Cymru, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats also want to get rid of tuition fee subsidies and UKIP wants to cut them whereas the Green Party is calling for university education everywhere in the UK to be free.