Universities Wales has said that it is “deeply concerned” about UK Government plans to limit the numbers of students from England coming to university in Wales.
Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams said tonight that she has written to the UK Universities Minister Michelle Donelan expressing her worries about the plan.
The UK Government is expected to announce next week that they are capping numbers at universities in the face of falling recruits from overseas as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Kirsty Williams revealed today that they were also considering limiting the number that could study in Wales.
A recent report from Wales Governance Centre showed that Welsh universities faced losing between £84–140 million in the coming academic year from losses in fees alone – before any cut in English student numbers.
A spokeswoman for Universities Wales said: “[The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales] is currently consulting with the Welsh sector on an approach to admissions in Wales to maintain stability, in line with the four-nation approach that had been proposed.
“The foremost priority, at this time of uncertainty, should be that those students who wish to access higher education this autumn are able to do so.”
In a letter sent to Michelle Donelan, the UK Government Minister of State for Universities, Kirsty Williams said capping the numbers that could study in Wales “not in the best interests of the UK as a whole”.
“I am deeply concerned that you have chosen to place a control on Welsh institutions rather than work with the Welsh Government to achieve a solution that is compatible with devolution,” she said.
“I do not believe this approach is in the best interests of the UK as a whole, and demonstrates a surprising unwillingness to respect complementary policies in each nation.
“I will consider the consequences for Wales arising from the UK government’s policy and take further action to ensure that those interests are protected.
“My decision about how to progress will be based on what it is right for Welsh students and Wales as a whole.”
A spokesman for the UK’s Department for Education said that the aim of capping numbers was to protect students and universities from the effect of coronavirus.
“We want everyone who achieves their entry requirements to be able to go to university and these measures are a vital part of ensuring this, while avoiding harmful over-recruitment among providers which could go against the interests of both students and universities,” the spokesman said.
“We will shortly be setting out further details on how the student number controls will be implemented, including how they will work in the devolved administrations.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said it was not up to England to tell Wales how to work out student numbers.
“We are not implementing controls on students going from Wales to England, but all options are on the table if England don’t respect our decision making,” they told the Western Mail.