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Look to Wales on Student Finance



Kirsty Williams: Implemented 'most generous student finance system'

IN A much-trailed intervention into the debate on the cost of higher education to those participating in it, PM Theresa May has announced that the UK Government is to reconsider the operation of tuition fee loans taken up by students to fund their degrees.

Mrs May made her move in an effort to recapture some of the youth vote lost by the Conservatives in 2017’s General Election; particularly in those marginal seats containing university towns, where students voted in significant numbers, reduced Conservative majorities, and unseated some sitting MPs.

Among suggestions trailed by the UK’s Education Department is ensuring Universities do not charge the maximum tuition fees for every course, with a differential being proposed between STEM subjects and the Arts and Social Sciences. Such a move would suggest that the government acknowledges the abject failure of the supposed ‘internal market’ for higher education it anticipated would be created when it trebled the maximum tuition fee payable by students during the Conservative/Liberal coalition led by David Cameron.

While the changes suggested affect only English students, any change would almost inevitably impact upon student finance in Wales, where the government has adopted a significantly different approach under Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Welsh Liberal Democrats reminded the UK Government that they only need to look to Wales to find what they says is ‘a fair and effective student finance system’.

In 2016 the Diamond Review recommended replacing tuition fee grants in favour of support for students’ living costs. This recognised the fact that living costs are a greater financial concern than tuition fees for students and reflected Welsh Liberal Democrat policy.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams has since implemented Professor Diamond’s recommendations and created the most generous student finance system in the UK.

Whilst the UK Government ended maintenance grants in England, the Welsh Government have created a system that gives students the equivalent of the National Living Wage through a combination of grants and loans. The system is also the first in Europe to provide equivalent support for part-time and postgraduate learners.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Fair Wales Rhys Taylor commented: “Thanks to Kirsty Williams and the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Wales now has the most generous and progressive student finance system in the UK. This effective and sensible approach to student finance is backed by students and universities alike.

“Whilst the UK Government preoccupied themselves with ending maintenance grants, Kirsty Williams has been busy ensuring that for every student in Wales it is your academic ability and not your ability to pay that determines whether you can study at University. If the UK Government want a better and fairer student finance system they don’t need a new review, they just need to look to Wales.”


New lease of life for rescue dog



Duke the dog: Complete with 3D printed leg

A DOG that could hardly walk has been given a new lease of life after a 3D printed leg was made for him by CBM, a research company established by UWTSD.

Rescue dog Duke, an Irish retriever, was born with a birth defect in his front right leg and faced having it amputated.

But he is now running around after Swansea printing firm CBM made him a leg similar to blades used by Paralympians.

New owner Phil Brown, from Bristol, said it had been ​’​life changing​’​.

When Duke was found abandoned by the Irish Retriever Rescue (IRR) charity in Ireland in 2016, his paw was deformed and he could not walk on all fours.

He was taken to the pound and rehomed with foster owners the Browns, who have since adopted him as their own as they could not bear to part with the loveable pooch.

After a massive fundraising campaign by the charity Duke has been fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthetic by CBM, after narrowly avoiding having his foot amputated.

His new owner said Duke, who is now three, was delighted by his new ​’​super leg​’​ which meant he was walking on four paws for the first time.

Mr Brown, who owns other dogs which Duke is enjoying playing with, said: “He had a very tough start in life.

“This is an absolute life changer for him, it really is. He can now walk on it, he can now run at a slow speed.”

Mr Brown said the three-dimensional leg was about a year in a making, and a few months down the line Duke is getting so much use out of it he has already had to have it refurbished.

The leg was entirely printed out of a machine apart from a rubber foot, some Velcro and foam at the top to make it more comfortable for Duke.

CBM product designer Benjamin Alport said creating Duke’s leg was a real challenge for the team, who worked with his new owner and a consultant orthopaedic surgeon on the design.

“We had to go down and assess Duke. We had to consider right down to the thickness of the hairs because you have to take into account the smallest things,” he said.

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Kellogg’s backs breakfast clubs



Improving attendance and attainment: Breakfast clubs

KELLOGG’S is celebrating 20 years of championing breakfast clubs by offering schools across the country the chance to get their hands on £1,000.

To mark the anniversary, the cereal giant will be giving a £1,000 grant away every school day of 2018.

Schools can apply for a Kellogg’s grant by visiting

The scheme marks the 20th anniversary of the Kellogg’s Breakfast Club programme, which has provided £3 million of investment to schools and 70 million bowls of cereal since 1998.

Research shows that breakfast clubs help with everything from attendance and attainment to alleviating hunger and providing pre-school care.

They are a lifeline for many teachers as 68 per cent of teachers believe pupils would struggle to concentrate in class without their breakfast club, according to a report by Kellogg’s.

Kate Prince, from Kellogg’s, said: “We believe all children should have the opportunity to start the day with breakfast so we’re proud to have spent 20 years supporting so many schools across the UK.

“The £1,000 we’re offering in 2018 underpins our pride and continuing commitment to our breakfast club programme.”

Kellogg’s currently has 3000 schools signed up to its network, offering them a range of resources and provisions to help them operate sustainable and effective breakfast clubs.

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Former minister lectures on Facebook and democracy



Leighton Andrews: Raising questions about regulation

THE EVER increasing influence of social media on democracy will be the focus for a public lecture at Aberystwyth University on Thursday, March 22.

Facebook, The Media and Democracy will be delivered by Former Welsh Government Minister Professor Leighton Andrews of the Cardiff Business School.

Hosted by​ ​The Global Communications Research Centre and the Aberystwyth Law School, the lecture takes place at 4:10pm in the Main Hall of the Department of International Politics.

Facebook now has over two billion users across the globe and owns other key communication applications including Instagram and WhatsApp, giving it unprecedented market power.

It is a major player in shaping whole societies through its role in media dissemination, civic organization and as an electoral platform.

Professor Gary Rawnsley, Director of the Global Communications Research Centre and Professor of Public Diplomacy​,​ said: “We are looking forward to co-hosting the lecture with Aberystwyth Law School on such a hot topic. Facebook is constantly changing the face of politics, engagement and democracy at an unprecedented speed and arguments for and against regulation are evolving on a daily basis.

“The role of social media is changing the future of society and democracy, but following the recent controversy regarding ‘Fake News’ in the USA and UK, its dominance is under challenge from regulators and law-makers. The lecture will raise regulatory questions around big data and the internet platforms.”

Professor Leighton Andrews will be introduced by Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University.

Professor Andrews is now Professor of Practice in Public Service Leadership and Innovation at Cardiff Business School.

He served as Minister for Education and Skills and Minister for Public Services in Carwyn Jones’s Welsh Labour Governments between 2009 and 2016, and Deputy Minister in Rhodri Morgan’s One Wales Government from 2007 until 2009, and was the Assembly Member for the Rhondda from 2003 until 2016.

Prior to his election to the National Assembly in 2003, Professor Andrews had a successful career in the private, public and voluntary sectors, and was the BBC’s Head of Public Affairs in London from 1993-1996, during its Charter Renewal campaign.

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