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£40m boost for vulnerable students in Wales

Universities across Wales have been urged to prioritise funding to “the most vulnerable” students in the country, as the government announced an additional £40 million for students facing financial hardship.

Vulnerable students across Wales – including at Swansea University and UWTSD campuses in Swansea (above) – will be eligible for financial support. Photo: Unsplash

"If you are a student here in Wales, your university or students’ union will be able to provide you with further information"

The money will help students who have been most affected by the pandemic with expenses such as accommodation costs, the Welsh government emphasised, as well as strengthening student advice and support services.

“Some students might still be paying for their accommodation while they are unable to use it”

“This year, due to reasons beyond their control, many thousands of students have not been able to return to campus yet,” the country’s education minister Kirsty Williams said in a statement.

“In some cases, this means some students might still be paying for their accommodation while they are unable to use it. We recognise how difficult this is, which is why we are announcing this additional funding.

“Our universities have worked tremendously hard to support their students, ensuring learning has continued, while putting measures in place to protect their students, staff and their local communities.  This funding will allow them to build on that good work.”

Students who have not yet returned to campus from overseas, now face pre-departure test requirements, and the country – along with the rest of the UK – has agreed to suspend travel corridors, which previously have allowed arrivals from certain countries self-isolation exemptions.

The need to complete a pre-departure test and quarantine for 10 days on return to Wales will began at 4:00 am, January 18, and will be in effect until at least February 15, but will “likely be in effect for longer”, the government said.

It is not clear how many international students will be affected by these policies, but it is expected impact will be limited as many international students remained in country during Christmas, arrived early January or are currently studying remotely.

Universities are still arranging airport pickups for some arriving students, including Aberystwyth which has airport pick up arranged for January 22 and 23.

The £40m will address ‘digital poverty’ among students by enabling better access to online learning, and help with costs incurred due to the need to self-isolate.

It also includes £10m which will go towards student hardship, mental health support and student unions.

“This funding will also help tackle inequality, by ensuring the most vulnerable students and those most affected by the pandemic can complete their studies,” Rebecca Evans, the finance minister and Trefnydd, said.

“If you are a student here in Wales, your university or students’ union will be able to provide you with further information about the support available.”

Universities Wales welcomed the additional support which it hopes will “confidence to our students that we and our government are determined that they should be supported to complete their studies, providing the best possible opportunities as we rebuild our nation”.

“This is a very welcome announcement from the Welsh Government, which is leading the way in understanding and responding to hardship needs and the challenges posed to higher education by the pandemic,” said Universities Wales chair Julie Lydon.

“The collaborative approach it has adopted with universities, students and staff has helped us to manage these very difficult circumstances to the best of our ability.

“Staff at universities across Wales have worked tirelessly to deliver a rewarding learning experience while also providing important pastoral and well-being support for students. This additional funding will further support this work and make a real difference to students across Wales.”

In 2020, Universities Wales called for a plan to increase the country’s university exports by 75% to £950m by 2030.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales will distribute the funding – from the government’s Covid-19 Reserve – to universities. Decisions on how the funding is used will be made at an institutional level.

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