With just one week to go until the General Election, HEPI is asking the political parties for their views on higher education issues. We are asking the same 5 questions to all parties.
First up – Plaid Cymru, who deserve praise for being the first party to send their responses back to us!
How do you think undergraduate study should be funded?
We believe in free education, but recognise that tuition fees in Wales depend on the UK context. We have adopted an affordable, realistic policy which calls for a fairer maintenance support system. We would adapt the tapering rate, proposed by the Diamond Review, which at the moment is too generous for students coming from the wealthiest backgrounds.
Will you introduce any policies to tackle the decline in part-time learning?
To tackle the decline in part-time learning, we believe in creating more options for people considering part-time study. We will create a national network of University Technical Institutes focused on providing specialist skills in particular areas and piloting part-time postgraduate study, providing state-of-the-art industry-aligned skills in partnership with employers. We will also introduce an Open School – along the lines of the Open University – with a national Mooc (massive open online course) for self-directed learning using the Hwb+ network and weekend residential courses for top-up and flipped learning will be developed. This flexibility and the range of courses to study will make part-time learning more accessible and attractive to people.
If you win, what approach will you take to university research?
Plaid Cymru will fight to secure current levels of EU funding from the Westminster Government for Wales, which receives £79 per head more than it contributes to the EU. Wales is at threat of losing the £680 million a year it currently receives, a great deal of which goes to Welsh universities.
We will create a Higher Education Innovation Fund to support R&D and spinout activity within our University sector, and seek the devolution of Research Councils and Innovate UK monies to Wales to the NIB and a new Welsh Research Council.
Will you encourage higher education institutions to continue bringing together students and staff from all over the world?
Plaid Cymru support proper protections not just for all EU citizens, but also for international students, researchers and lecturers who choose to live, study and work in Wales. Plaid Cymru has a proud history of supporting international students, which was recently highlighted by Hywel Williams’s campaign to save Bangor University student Shiromini Satkunarajah from deportation. We believe that this should set an example to all universities across the world to continue to work together for students and staff.
What do you see as the main purposes of the university system?
As a matter of principle, we believe that higher education is a public good which we all benefit from as a society. For young people, attending university is about having the best experience and widening their horizons. We believe this opportunity should be available to everyone. We also recognise the importance of research facilities within universities and the contribution they make to our society, health system and economy, and to shaping our world.