This week in Parliament Plaid Cymru and Jonathan Edwards MP have opposed the Higher Education Bill which will remove caps on university tuition fees.
The Bill, passed by a majority of MPs on Tuesday, will allow universities to increase tuition fees in line with inflation.
As well as opposing the move, local MP Mr Edwards has called for a new Research Council Wales, to facilitate research and development in Welsh universities.
The Bill also includes provisions which allows fee caps to be set at differing levels by universities, based upon the provider’s Teacher’s Excellence Framework award. The bill also sets both an overall sector floor, but also ensures that the cap remains under the control of Parliament, allowing the cap to be lifted.
The Higher Education Bill also merges the seven research councils into a new body, UK Research and Innovation, in approach claimed to streamline the allocation of funding to universities. Jonathan Edwards MP says this fails to address historic inequalities in funding allocated to Wales, which has on average received only 2% of funding support, when demographically, funding should be around 5% of total funding allocation.
Plaid Cymru has consistently called for the creation of a Research Council Wales to allocate funding to Welsh universities fairly, but also to approach Welsh research as a whole so as to effectively identify areas for development in Wales in light of Welsh priorities.
Reacting to the Higher Education Bill, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
“The Labour party’s disgraceful decision to introduce tuition fees and to then allow top-up fees was one of the main reasons why I became involved in politics. Now, the Conservative government’s decision to raise tuition fees in line with inflation is a cloak-and-danger approach to broadly increase fees faced by students wishing to attend university.
“Moreover, this Bill refused to acknowledge the need for a differentiated and long-term approach to funding research in Wales. Plaid Cymru and I have repeatedly sought the creation of a Welsh research council to identify, develop and improve both the quality and direction of research in Wales.
“Education plays an essential role in the development of a thriving society and its economy. This Bill not only places a premium on citizens’ rights to education, but also denies Wales the ability to develop a Welsh-orientated research programme to facilitate economic regeneration and growth in Wales.”