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Education

Tuition fees frozen

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UK policy change created 'difficult position': Professor Julie Lydon, Universities Wales

THE MAXIMUM university tuition fee in Wales will remain at £9,000, with £26m of government investment to support students and universities over the next two years

The Welsh Government claims the policy change, which follows an announcement that the Welsh Government was to RAISE tuition fees, is part of a plan aimed at securing a stable, progressive and sustainable funding system, whilst also responding to the many unscheduled changes announced in England.

The Education Secretary has also confirmed an increase in the repayment threshold for undergraduate loans from £21,000 to £25,000, subject to the successful conclusion of discussions with Her Majesty’s Treasury.

Kirsty Williams said: “I will not allow the political turmoil and uncertainty in England to knock us off course from delivering on a stable and sustainable higher education system in Wales.

“Our sector does not operate in isolation and we must provide stability for our institutions to compete both domestically and internationally.

“Given the uncertain political climate in England I have carefully considered our future plans for tuition fee levels. After consulting with our Universities and the National Union of Students, the maximum tuition fee will remain at £9,000. We are also on track to deliver the most equitable and progressive student support system in the UK, starting next academic year.

“Unlike the Government across the border, we are delivering investment to support both students and universities as part of these changes.

“I also remain concerned about the rate of interest charged to students whilst they study and I will continue to discuss this with counterparts in Whitehall.”

Ms Williams revealed the policy change before a meeting of the Welsh Assembly’s Education Committee and the announcement drew grudging approval from Conservative AM Darren Millar, who said he thought Ms Williams should have taken the step to freeze tuition fees earlier. Llyr Gruffydd praised the move, which he described as ‘a significant victory for Plaid Cymru and others who campaigned against the tuition fees hike’.

A statement from Universities Wales said: ‘The past few weeks have seen tuition fee reform high on the agenda in Westminster, with the Prime Minister announcing a ‘major review’ of student finance and university funding in England. Clearly any changes announced in England are beyond the control of the Welsh Government which puts the Cabinet Secretary in a difficult position’.

Universities Wales chair Professor Julie Lydon said: “The £10m additional funding allocated through the budget is very welcome and we value the continued positive approach taken by the Cabinet Secretary to work with the sector to find a solution for the 19/20 financial year to mitigate the short-term implications of this decision.”

“At a time when our universities have been working to plan long-term for a sustainable funding model through Diamond, this commitment by the Welsh Government to find a solution will enable our universities to continue to deliver a comparable student experience to that available in better funded institutions across the border.

“The additional £5million in 18/19 for Postgraduate study is a welcome injection of funding for student support which will bring Wales in line with English funding for Postgraduate study, and ensure Wales continues to deliver world-leading research, however this must be accompanied by investment in our institutions, for this excellence to be realised.”

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Education

Josephine wins Welsh carpentry title

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Pursuing her passion: Josephine Jones

A COLEG SIR GÂR carpentry student has won the Welsh regional title of the Institute of Carpenters Carpenters’ craft competition.

Josephine Jones, from Saron, is in her first year of studying a City and Guilds diploma in carpentry and joinery at Coleg Sir Gâr’s Ammanford campus where she is also signed-up to the college’s shared apprentice scheme.

Following a specification set-out by Institute of Carpenters, Josephine set-about responding to the brief.

“The spec was quite complicated at first,” she said. “It involved intricate work which meant that creating strong joints was a challenge but I enjoyed it.”

Josephine also says that her first year of study helped prepare her for the competition where she learned about joinery, joints and the best tools to carry out the work. “Since I was a young girl I’ve always wanted to do a trade job,” she said. “But I was encouraged not to and guided into other careers.”

Finally pursuing her passion, Josephine added: “I love working with wood, I like working outdoors and doing something physical and I’m doing something different every day.”

The Carpenters’ Craft Competition is the only national competition open to students of carpentry, joinery and shop fitting. It gives outstanding students the chance to showcase their work and have it judged by leaders in the field.

Winners are presented with their prizes at a special ceremony held at Carpenters’ Hall

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Education

WIAV graduate wins Elizabeth Connell prize

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Winning 'a life changing experience': Katie Lowe

UWTSD has offered its congratulations to Katie Lowe, who has won the prestigious Elizabeth Connell prize.

Katie, who is a graduate of the university’s Wales International Academy of Voice, was awarded the prize at a special ceremony held in Sydney, Australia. The prize includes AUS $30, 000 and an audition at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Katie said: “Nothing prepared me for the shock of actually winning the ECP award. This is a life-changing experience and I intend to fulfill the promise that the esteemed judges have placed in me. It is a privilege to begin my dramatic soprano journey in Elizabeth Connell’s footsteps and I hope to do her memory proud.”

Katie is an English soprano who studied at the Wales International Academy of Voice under the tutelage of Dennis O’Neill. She graduated in 2014 and since then, she has gone on to receive numerous awards including the Ian Fleming Award MBF, Sybil Tutton Award MBF, Countess of Munster Award, Les Azurieles Young Artist Award, Dennis O’Neill Foundation Award and the Josephine Baker Trust. In 2016, she was awarded the Independent Opera Postgraduate Voice Fellowship at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Dennis O’Neill, Director of WIAV, said: “I was delighted to hear of Katie Lowe’s huge success in this very important competition and have sent her our congratulations on behalf of WIAV. It was always a joy to teach her and equally so to see yet another of our singers joining the profession at such a high level.”

The Elizabeth Connell is an annual prize-giving awarded to aspiring dramatic soprano. Finalists were chosen from auditions in Sydney, Melbourne, Moscow, Berlin, London, Zurich, Paris, and New York. For her winning performance, Katie performed the ‘Immolation Scene’ from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung and ‘Suicidio’ from La Gioconda by Ponchiello.

The Wales International Academy of Voice was founded by Internationally renowned Tenor Dennis O’Neill, and now part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s, students will benefit from the expertise of a Master of his field and a world leading Educational Institution to prepare them for the ever changing pace of the Operatic Performance Industry.

The Academy provides a highly specialised and unique environment for a small number of exceptional singers and accompanists at the early stage of their professional career and recruits young artists globally. Students work with the best vocal technicians, coaches, visiting eminent conductors and international stars from the operatic world in order to develop their talent to the highest professional standards.

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Education

21st Century Schools’ £2.3b boost

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Largest investment in schools since 1960s: Announced by Kirsty Williams

THE WELSH Government has earmarked a further £2.3b to modernise education infrastructure, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams announced ​last Friday (Nov 10).

The money will allow the flagship 21st Century Schools and Education Programme – a major, long-term and strategic capital investment programme – to continue for a second wave of investment.

Band A of the programme will conclude in 2019 after a £1.4bn spend over 5 years. This second wave of investment, Band B, will comprise 2 funding streams; one using traditional capital, and one using revenue funding, via a new form of Public Private Partnership called the Mutual Investment Model (MIM).

Local authorities and further education institutions have proposed £2.3bn of projects, which meet the investment objectives of Band B of the programme including:

  • ​Addressing growth in demand for Welsh medium education
  • Reductions of surplus capacity and inefficiency in the system
  • ​Expansion of schools and colleges in areas of increased demand for educational services
  • Address condition of educational assets
  • ​Making assets available for community use where demand exists

The Welsh Government is committed to supporting all of these projects, subject to approval of business cases.

Speaking at the opening of Ysgol Cybi, a new 540 place Welsh medium primary school in Holyhead delivered by £9.7m of Band A funding, Kirsty Williams said​: “I am committed to raising standards, reducing the attainment gap and delivering an education system from the ground up that is a source of national pride and confidence. The 21st Century Schools and Education Programme is one of the means to achieve this ambition and represents the largest investment in our schools and colleges since the 1960s.

“The first wave of funding provided though the programme will see investment of more than £1.4b over the ​five-year period ending 2019, supporting the rebuild and refurbishment of more than 150 schools and colleges across the Wales.

“This is why I am delighted to announce a second wave of investment for the programme, which will begin in April 2019.

“We will work closely with our partners to agree the pace of delivery and put in place investment plans that are affordable and meet our shared ambition to create sustainable learning environments that meet the needs of our communities.”

Announcements on individual Band B projects will be made in conjunction with local authorities in due course.

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