Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The value of devolution - fairness for students

Cerith Rhys Jones (Executive Non-Portfolio Officer and Public Rep) writes:

"Today’s announcement from the Labour-Plaid Cymru Welsh Assembly Government regarding tuition fees comes as what can only be described as a relief for students and prospective students like myself especially. One Wales has shown the value of devolution this afternoon, in declaring that Welsh students will not have to pay any more than £3,290 a year for their Higher Education – wherever they study in the UK.

"Students who are currently in University and who will go to University next year will not be affected by the announcement, meaning that they will still pay £3,290, but today’s news will affect 2012/13 students who would otherwise have to pay upwards of £6,000 for their HE – thanks very much to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in London.

"This move from WAG really does show our commitment to HE here in Wales, and more than that: that we believe in our young people and believe that they don’t deserve such extortionate costs. Supporters of the ConDems’ plans ask why it matters – we don’t repay until after graduation anyway! Let me tell you: if I went into Uni knowing that I would leave with £30,000 or £40,000 worth of debt, I really would question whether it’s worth it.

It is.

"The difference between Cardiff Bay and Westminster is that we here in Wales have made the right decision to make it possible for students and prospective students to what is right for them in the long-run.

'We have a responsibility to Welsh-domiciled students, wherever they choose to study. We also have a responsibility to ensure that Wales benefits, economically, socially and culturally, from the investment that the Assembly Government makes in higher education in Wales.'

"That’s what our Education Minister Leighton Andrews AM had to say today. He’s darned right. A strong and accessible HE sector will benefit our country in more ways than simply meaning that more people can afford to go to Uni. What Wales needs is a strong, forward-looking and innovative economy, and a good HE sector will stand us in good stead for achieving that.

"Plaid is proud of its socialist principles and so am I. I am proud to be a citizen of a country whose government cares; whose government recognises its responsibility to ensure that education is indeed a right and not a privilege.

"Of course, on that note, we’re not quite there, but CymruX is committed to fighting for free HE because we believe that a cost of even £3,290 shouldn’t stop anyone from going to University. (Naturally, if cuts weren’t coming from every angle thanks to David and Co. that’d be a rather more realistic aim.)

"For now though, we are happy with the best that’s on offer: fairness. Something that Wales can offer, and the ConDems seem not yet to have grasped. Will they ever? Doubt it.

Diolch, Leighton, a diolch, Llywodraeth Cymru.
Thank you, Leighton, and thank you, Welsh Government.

To read the Welsh Assembly Government’s statement on-line, go to the Welsh Assembly Government's website.

And remember that you can now follow @yesforwales and @iedrosgymru on Twitter, as well as add a Yes4Wales badge to your Twitter and Facebook avatars. More powers for Wales next March combined with a successful election for us means more fairness and indeed more actions like today’s!


Anonymous said...

I'm certainly glad that the One Wales govt has taken a different policy to Westminster. However, by extending the fees to Welsh students studying outside Wales it will only reinforce if not increase the brain drain from Wales.

Wales, it seems, is the only country in Europe which pays its students to study outside its country.

Does Cymru X know how many Welsh students study outside Wales ... and how many return (or rather don't)?

The Welsh state makes a great investment in its young people - financial, academic but also cultural and linguistic. When these talented leave to study in England (very often in unis no better than those in Wales) they usually stay there and don't return. If they speak Welsh the language dies with them - OK, they may give their kids a nice name, they may call their grandparents 'mamgu' or 'taid' but it's lost. That's how it goes. Meanwhile, we can't find Welsh-speaking staff in the NHS, or banks
or government.

Glad One Wales is taking a different approach to Westminster, but it's too early to see this as a great victory. It's just a continutation of centuries of brain drain from Wales - sapping our cultural and linguistic heritage.


Welsh Ramblings said...

Macsen, the numbers studying outside of Wales are 16,000- one third of the Welsh student population.

I actually disagree and think it is a victory- the difference between £3k and £9k is hugely significant.

The reason there is a brain drain is because the jobs outside Wales pay more. Fixing the jobs side of things is the way to reverse it although I wouldn't be against incentives for Welsh graduates to stay.

One other thing I find positive is the fact that Plaid people are charitable and willing to say "fair play" to people like Leighton Andrews when they deliver things we agree with. With Labour you hardly ever get that, they tend to suggest it's an exclusively Labour government. Huw Lewis did it not
long ago with some regeneration cash Jocelyn Davies delivered for Merthyr.

The fact our side is mature and willing to work with others and recognise the value of alliances pleases and encourages me. Our cause is right.

Anonymous said...

I agree about being charitable - I certainly think Leighton Andrews is the best education minister the Assembly has had. OK, that's faint praise, but he's brought in a strategy for Welsh-medium education and I certainly support that and think Plaid should say so.

I also support this in general but it will continue the brain drain. Not every one who goes to work in England go there because of lack of work in Wales. Many are working as doctors, nurses, teachers etc - jobs which are crying out for people in Wales and especially Welsh-speakers. They go to, lets say, Reading, find a part-time job, find a jobs network, find a partner and get a full-time job. There are loads of people in Bangor, Aber, Cardiff etc who've done the same. This happens in England (quite naturally). The investment made in these young people, especially the linguistic investment (speaking Welsh) is lost.

Your figures don't match up either. I guess a large proportion of the two thirds of the student population who stay in Wales include a very large chunck of FE students which tends to be a different profile of students, age, expectations and jobs. So, the numbers who go to university is a much higher proportion. If we continue to see 40%+ young people go to uni then that's a massive annual brain drain from Wales.

I wouldn't wish to stop people studying outside Wales. And there are certainly some courses which aren't available within Wales or which are better taught at different English unis. My fear is that with English unis strengthening, because they'll raise more money, the temptation to study in England - with Welsh tax payers money - will increase the number of Welsh students leaving Wales.

Some will return to Wales but a huge number won't. In the mean time, speaking as a Welsh-speaker wishing to have Welsh-speaking service, we'll be denied this service, partly because Welsh-speakers who could do the job are doing a similar job in England. It breaks my heart.


Welsh Ramblings said...

Macsen- I think the truth is the brain drain is a structural and psychological problem to do with our continued membership of the UK. Trying to reverse it by using the education system is like sticking a plaster on a broken leg.

All we could do is give Welsh students a further cash incentive linked to their fees to stay here...jobs and wages would still not be good enough. We live in a capitalist society (and an economically neoliberal EU)- under capitalism and the free market it is completely natural for people to follow the money, which is why the EU facilitates the free movement of students and labour. Obviously I agree with artificially suspending parts of the free market because i'm a socialist- but I am also realistic. There is always going to be migration and movement and it's "normal" for exploited countries to lose their best people to their wealthier neighbours- look at Cubans and Mexicans going to America, Pacific Islanders going to Australia or Eastern Europeans going to Western Europe. Look at the Irish in the UK and the mass migration of professionals from East to West Germany or Albanians and Romanians trying to go to Italy, or Portuguese going to the wealthier parts of the Spanish state.

To reverse the brain drain we need to build the economy we want to see in Wales and we will only be able to do that once we gain responsibility for all of Wales' resources and revenues.

I support a party committed to that process, but in the mean time devolution is gradually working.

Martin Jones said...

Ramblings' figures are correct Macsen. 70,000 Welsh doms study in Wales (this year), 16,000 in the rest of the UK.

This will do wonders for the "Yes" vote. In fact the Yes campaign must target those 70,000 who are eligible to vote in Wales. If we can get 20,000 of them out for the referendum that could be the difference between winning and losing.

I think we will win but the 97 opinion polls said the same thing as now. Apathy risks it.

How exciting though if Welsh students, typically politically deflated now compared to when I was at college, could help change the course of Welsh history. Get them on board. the NUS should be asked to run a national Students Say Yes campaign. Katie Dalton who has been impressive for NUS on the news (and probably isn't Welsh, which works in our favour) could be asked to front it.

Jeff said...

Good point Martin. I moved a motion in Aber students union for the union to campaign for a yes vote; after lots of legal wranglings it got to the General Meeting; unfortunately it got sunk by 6 votes to 70something - embarrassing!
Would love to see the NUS help this campaign, but that would need a huge change in people's perception of what a union is for (i.e. a political organisation not just social services provision), even with this vote.
It's going to end up depending on PC Students, and anyone else who's bothered, to spread the word I think. Which is a shame because that central organisation in NUSW would be really useful.