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University criticism by English politicians could have ‘unintended consequences’ for Wales says Vice Chancellor

21 Sep 2021 2 minute read
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The rhetoric of some English politicians who have claimed that “too many” students go to university could have “unintended consequences” for higher education institutions in Wales, a Vice-Chancellor has said.

Prof. Elizabeth Treasure of Aberystwyth University, who became chair of Universities Wales last month, said that she worried that UK Government claims that students did not earn enough after graduation to justify having studied for a degree could have an impact over the border.

England’s former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson set out the government’s vision in February, stating, “we need universities and colleges to work together to address the gaps in our labour market”.

But Elizabeth Treasure told Times Higher Education that it was “too narrow to look at outcomes as being finance-driven”.

“There’s far more that graduates give back in terms of ability to think, to analyse, to problem-solve, etc,” she said.

“Why are you defining it as too many students? Have you got a range of options for young people and older people and returners to choose from? We need to identify where the jobs are and what sort of skills people need for them – let’s look at the transferable skills people gain by doing degrees.

“I personally believe it’s very reasonable to go to university and study something you’re passionate about for three years.”

‘Move quickly’

Elizabeth Treasure added that England should follow Wales’ example on widening access to students. Wales provides a generous student support package, including £10,530 maintenance funding for students living away from home.

“In my opinion, England should look to us to replicate that level of support,” Professor Treasure said.

But any change to tuition fee levels announced by the UK Government would also impact universities in Wales, she added. England’s universities currently charge £9,250 but a drop to £7,500 has been suggested, which would force Welsh Universities to drop their own fees to remain competitive.

“Whatever happens, we will have to respond to whatever announcements are made in England,” Elizabeth Treasure said.

“And, we’ve made this point to ministers, Wales needs time to respond to that. We will have to move quickly if the fees are cut in England.”

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2 years ago

Universities have been allowed to become a complete mess over last 25+ years. Those politicians in England may have a point although coming at it from a slightly warped direction. Politicians of all colours were among the most enthusiastic for widening access without having any ideas how the growth in graduate numbers could be absorbed by the world of work. The unspoken truth about much of the work done in our economy is that it doesn’t require graduate standard education, so expectations of job satisfaction and rewards are created only to leave a graduate with big debts and low employment… Read more »

Grayham Jones
2 years ago

Only welsh students in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 stop being little Englanders and be proud to be welsh it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 A Free Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

2 years ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

The Welsh government should not pay(loans/grant) students to go to English/etc universities.

Stuart Cane
Stuart Cane
2 years ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

Students from outside Wales (whether England or further afield) are a great source of income for the Welsh economy. An independent Wales won’t thrive if we cut off one our major service exports!

2 years ago

Slaves to the Machine: The conservatives are not interested in developing thinking and analytical skills through education. The ex- Education Secretary’s statement tells it all – they want University education to be training for work not education to broaden your mind. They want “skills gaps plugging” not the development of people who can think for themselves.

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