VC's View: Why the Diamond Review matters to students in North Wales
04 October 2016
It was a little over two years ago that the previous government commissioned Sir Ian Diamond to review student fees and university funding in Wales. Whilst I was yet to come to Wales when it started, the Review has certainly been hotly anticipated here in recent months. The key question for me was, would it provide what students in Wrexham Glyndwr need as well as supporting the key objectives we have as a university to support our region?
I am pleased to report the answer is ‘yes’. Sir Ian has identified a solution that will benefit both our students and the university, which will in turn support many areas of vital importance to North Wales.
I know as a sector, universities in Wales are delighted to see that the Review, which was published last week, now provides a much fairer package of support for Welsh students. This is because it aims to give many more talented people the opportunity to transform their life-chances through going to university.
This is particularly important to Wrexham. Let me tell you why.
Diamond has recommended much more generous maintenance support packages for students. Two thirds of Wrexham Glyndwr University students are from Wales, with the vast majority of them coming from the north of the country, and they may currently be in receipt of maintenance support to help with daily living costs but they may not perceive that as adequate. The new support package on offer will give more students the money in their pockets at the point at which they need it most – to cover rent, bills and other day-to-day expenses, which will widen access to higher education to those that would otherwise be barred by daily living costs.
Secondly, the Review recommends enhanced support to part-time provision. This is vitally important at Wrexham Glyndwr. Around 40% of our students study part time. This provides opportunities not just to our 18-year old undergraduates, but to those at all stages of life, including those with commitments that make studying full-time difficult and the 49% of our students who are aged 21 and over.
As Diamond’s Review highlights, part-time education provides an important way into higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and contributes significantly to community development and economic regeneration in disadvantaged communities. Part-time provision is also important for local employers. We work closely with a number of north east Wales-based companies including Airbus, defence firm Raytheon, Toyota, the BBC, DTCC, JCB and many other organisations across a variety of sectors. The further proposals Diamond makes on support for innovation activity will also help us to build economically meaningful relationships with our businesses. All of this could be transformational in terms of what we can achieve for North Wales.
Thirdly, the Review recommends widening support to include postgraduate study, where Wrexham Glyndwr has particular strengths in business, health and the creative industries and support for research where we deliver impact in the areas of computer science, communications, electrical engineering and media.
Our universities, as well as providing a high quality education, contribute to Wales in many other ways – economically, culturally, socially, changing lives and communities. As we look to build the contribution that Wrexham Glyndwr can make to North Wales, this Review could not be more timely. A recent study showed that Wrexham Glyndwr University generated more than 1700 jobs in Wrexham – 2.6% of all employment in the area - and £166m of economic output to the local economy in 2014. When fully implemented, Diamond proposals will ensure our universities are sustainable, enabling them to continue making their vital contribution to Wales. At Wrexham Glyndwr University this means building on our economic impact for the benefit of the region and increasing our role as the cultural and social anchor in our community.
As a sector, our universities look forward to working with Welsh Government to fulfil their aim of early implementation of the recommendations in order to deliver the best outcome for Wales. Welsh students will have the most generous student support package of all students across the UK nations and Welsh universities will have a sustainable future from which to grow and serve the people of Wales. That is a prospect I am very proud to be a part of.
Professor Maria Hinfelaar
Vice Chancellor, Wrexham Glyndwr University