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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 13:17 GMT
Davidson says top-up fees still possible
Students
Welsh students could join England in top-up fees
Welsh Education Minister Jane Davidson has told the BBC she has not ruled out introducing top-up fees in Wales if the assembly is given power over student funding.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales on Thursday, the minister said she would have to look at the "funding gap" if Welsh universities did not charge additional fees while English ones did.

Her comments came the day after UK Education Secretary Charles Clarke announced English universities would be able to charge top-up fees of up to 3,000 from 2006.

Jane Davidson AM
Jane Davidson: Powers must be linked to money
Ms Davidson also made it clear she would have no intention of abolishing existing tuition fees for Welsh students.

"I have not totally ruled out the idea that top-up fees would be introduced in Wales," said the minister.

"What I have to look at is what the funding gap would be if our universities did not go down that road, and whether the funding gap could be met or would be met by the assembly government."

She repeated Mr Clarke's statement that there would be pros and cons to devolving more higher education powers to Wales.

"As education minister I'm quite keen to have full powers over all aspects of higher education because we can take the decision that are right for us in Wales," she said.

But she added she would not be happy to have the powers without the corresponding money from central government which is currently provided for every student.

Money

"The assembly government would be out of pocket and that would do Wales down," she explained.

"So you cannot separate the argument of the money from the students."

On the issue of complete abolition of fees in Wales, Ms Davidson said she had never said she would do that.

"My concern is always been about up front tuition fees, and when the independent group on student hardship reported in 2000, they said there should be a contribution from the student and the state.

"It also said the student shouldn't pay until they had received the benefit of the education."

Ms Davidson revealed that English students studying in Wales would not be treated any differently financially from native students.

If students and staff from anywhere in the UK or elsewhere around the world see that Welsh universities are under funded in comparison with Scottish or English universities, they will feel that we are second or third rate

Derec Llwyd-Morgan

Derec Llwyd-Morgan, vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said it was difficult to assess the proposals because of the lack of details.

"Whatever is decided, it is important that the Welsh universities get the same kind of funding as our fellow universities in England and Scotland.

"We compete with them not only for students but for research grants, Research Council money and also for staff.

"If students and staff from anywhere in the UK or elsewhere around the world see that Welsh universities are under funded in comparison with Scottish or English universities, they will feel that we are second or third rate," he said.

"We all aspire to the greatest possible standards we can reach - but world-classness has a price on it.

"We have been complaining for the past few years that we are under funded.

Endowment

"The government in Westminster accepts that. Even Charles Clarke says we are 10bn under funded.

Derec Llwyd-Morgan
Vice-chancellor: lack of details makes assessment difficult
"He announced a six per cent overall increase in funding for English universities. Will the Welsh government, will the Scottish government, follow that?

"If they do not, we are straight away behind so it doesn't matter much about the fees, if they are up-front or end fees."

In the event of a graduate tax being introduced, he said nobody had spelt out how money would be transferred from the Treasury to the universities.

Mr Llwyd-Morgan responded to Mr Clarke's call for universities to find funding through endowments by saying Aberystwyth and many other universities currently received a lot of endowments from former students.

But he feared future students would be too busy paying back fees or graduate tax to think of endowing their former university.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  Anthony Boden, 6th form student
"The financial issues are being talked about a lot at schools."

News and analysis of the government's plans for higher education
See also:

22 Jan 03 | Wales
22 Jan 03 | Wales
22 Jan 03 | HE overview
05 Dec 02 | Politics
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