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Hundreds of North Wales pupils undecided on future

17 May 2013

Hundreds of school pupils and college students across North Wales have still not decided whether to attend university this September.

Summer is fast approaching but the promise of cheaper fees has failed to sway many youngsters towards higher education (HE).

Despite the fact students living in Wales will only have to pay £3,575 per year towards a degree at Glyndŵr University, the message is not getting through.

Glyndŵr’s Widening Access Coordinator Sarah Gaffney was concerned by the slow take-up and believes concern over high tuition fees across the rest of the UK misled Welsh students. 

She said: “The number of students at local colleges who are not applying to HE is worrying. We are working very closely with our partner colleges to ensure the students are given all the advice and guidance necessary to inform them about the university and their chosen course, and to enable them to confidently apply for a place.

“Students are encouraged to attend open days and taster events, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are eligible for further support, including financial help.

“Despite this, the message still isn’t getting through which leads us to believe that following the mass-marketing campaign last year covering the increase in university fees, students and their parents are still convinced university is too expensive.” 

Sarah added: “This simply is not the case and anyone, whether they are planning on studying here or are simply considering university as an option, can book in for a free consultation with our welfare department to find out exactly what help they are eligible for at Glyndŵr University, and when and how any finances can be settled in the long term.”

Further education colleges, including Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, Deeside and Yale have been informing North Wales-based students of the benefits of staying local.

Mary Pritchard, Higher Education Manager at Coleg Llandrillo, said: “Despite the efforts of individual institutions like ourselves, who have regularly publicised the true costs of studying for a degree in the regional press, on our website and in our prospectuses, many people are still being put off by what they perceive as high fees.

“Studying for a degree is currently a highly attractive proposition for Welsh students as they themselves only pay £3,575 per annum in fees compared with English students who pay up to £9,000 per annum; you don’t even start repaying the fees until you start earning over £21,000 a year. 

“Apart from the obvious fact that you don’t have to pay additional accommodation or living costs if you stay at home to study, the smaller classes and personalised support, along with work and family-friendly timetables, prove to be major benefits for our students.” 

A spokesperson for Deeside College, soon to become Coleg Cambria after merging with Yale in Wrexham, said its HE courses have proven popular, including agriculture and engineering in partnership with local universities. 

As well as only paying £3,575 a year, thanks to a grant from the Welsh Government, students living in Wales will only have to repay the loan from as little as £10-£15 per month when they earn more than £21,000 a year. 

In addition, if your household income is between £18,370 and £50,000, you may be eligible for an Assembly Learning Grant of between £50 and £5,161, which also does not have to be repaid. 

Mrs Pritchard added: “Studying for a degree improves job and promotion prospects and should be viewed as an investment, not a cost. 

“Many of our students tell us that they couldn’t have clinched their new job or gained their promotion without the knowledge and skills acquired during their studies.” 

Graduate Catrin Menai knows how important the cost of living is to students and would encourage people deciding on university to remain in Wales and reap the benefits.

The 25-year-old, from Bethesda, said: “Although I started a degree in fine art in Bristol I decided to transfer back to North Wales. At first I believed it a step back to be returning to my local area but I could only have been more wrong as my experience here has been invaluable. 

“Living and working creatively in North Wales is very different to the city but there are certainly incomparable positive points, for instance low living costs are much cheaper.  Higher education is expensive and it’s important to believe that you are gaining in your investment, especially in the current climate. Studying in North Wales has been a unique experience.”

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