Speech prepared for Save Hardship Funding motion for the Welsh Liberal Democrats’ 2015 Autumn Conference.
The purpose of this motion is to say clearly that the Welsh Liberal Democrats want to ensure that everyone can not only gain access to University, but are supported to succeed in University, too.
As a party we agree that access to higher education should not be determined by your ability to pay, we can’t deliver a truly accessible Higher Education system when academic success is all too often determined by your bank balance.
The Welsh Labour Government has made widening access to disadvantaged groups and student success and learning gain priorities, but at the same time is pulling the carpet from under the feet of the most vulnerable students in Wales – allowing Universities to pick and choose who’s more disadvantaged.
The Welsh Labour Government has cut the £2.1m Financial Contingency Fund – a fund that provides Universities with funding to support the most vulnerable – a small budget for the Government, but a lifeline for students in Wales.
NUS Wales’ study, Pound in Your Pocket, found that more than 50% of students regularly worried about meeting basic living costs, which they felt affected their studies. This will have an even greater impact on students from low socio-economic backgrounds and BME students who typically are awarded fewer ‘good degrees’ (2:1 and 1st degrees) than their white counterparts
We also know that most students struggle to pay their rent with the maintenance loans on offer. Maintenance loans have stayed the same at a time when the the cost of living has gone up and financial support like the Disabled Students’ Allowance has been cut.
And now the Tories want to replace grants with loans for the most vulnerable in England, too!
The future of higher education funding in Wales (and England) is uncertain and we should be reiterating at this key point in the discussion that we want to ensure that Higher Education is accessible to all and that everyone should be supported to succeed at University, not just get through the doors.
We also need to remind everyone of Assembly’s promise during the 2011 elections that this fund would be protected – let’s make sure that that promise is kept. Please support this motion.