Last week, while we were preparing for our interviews at 2011’s Summer Ball, the news broke of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’ decision to send back all University fee plans, stating they would be rejected in their current form. Elena Cresci elaborates on this announcement…

I think it’s safe to say we didn’t exactly expect last week’s announcement from HEFCW. After all, 9k is close to becoming the accepted norm for tuition fees; I even predicted that would be Swansea’s direction, though we have yet to find out if that’s the case. Since then, HEFCW has stated it has “now written to all ten higher education institutions and four further education colleges which submitted fee plans by 31 May stating that the plans in their current form do not meet the necessary requirements.”

When I wrote about the lack of a Swansea fee plan announcement last week, transparency was the main thing on my mind. As students, we have no insight whatsoever into the inner workings of the university, despite many of us having a clear interest in it. If Higher Education is being forced to run like a business, then it’s in the students best interests, as their customers, to know what kind of decisions are being made. Further to this, the recent announcement is hopefully a case of universities having to consider how exactly they can improve the “product” for their “customers”. You wouldn’t exactly pay a ridiculous amount for a something second rate now, would you? Additionally, with high fees come the requirement to improve access to education for those who can’t exactly afford this amount. The news seems to suggest this is a priority for HEFCW.

According to a Swansea University spokesperson: “Like all other higher education institutions in Wales, Swansea University is now working on an amended fee plan, addressing comments received from HEFCW.” Unlike other higher education institutions, as pointed out in our previous post on the matter, Swansea still hasn’t formally announced their fee plans. While the lack of transparency is a key issue, some would say the University has dodged a bullet in keeping their rejected fee proposals under wraps.

It’s been interesting to see the reactions to the council’s announcement from within the student community. NUS Wales President, Katie Dalton, expressed a hope this announcement was not just a “political stunt” designed to “hit headlines.” She said: “”Instead, it needs to send a very clear message to Welsh universities that they have to take this process seriously. As they bid to land future students in obscene amounts of debt, they must improve their fee plans and commit more to widening access and improving the student experience. If they fail to do this, then HEFCW must reject their plans on July 11th.”

NUS Wales President elect and outgoing SU President Luke Young expressed a similar view via Twitter: “Hoping that this announcement is a serious commitment to the scrutiny of each institution’s Fee Plan and not political manoeuvring.”[sic]

You never know, this could well be the case. We can only really speculate after all, because we never truly know what’s going on in those offices where all the important meetings take place. While I’m fully aware political manouvering and timed press releases are how the world works nowadays, I can’t help but feel where the education of future generations is concerned, it’s just unnecessary. On the plus side, it’s only about three weeks until we officially know what’s going on with fees in Wales; July the 11th is still the date for the HEFCW’s official decision.

What are your thoughts on the impending fee plans? Do you think this announcement is just a political stunt, or is it a concerted effort to ensure a wider access to Higher Education? Give us a shout via the regular means: comment below, shoot us an email (thesirenswansea at, Tweet or Facebook us; as always, we’re all ears and we love hearing your opinions.