Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 (THEA 1998) makes provision for student support in England and Wales.
The powers to make provision for financial support of students are set out in section 22 of THEA 1998. Most of the functions of the Secretary of State under this section have been transferred to the Welsh Ministers. The Secretary of State, however, retains some responsibility for making specific provisions in relation to Wales. For example the Secretary of State retains power to make provision modifying any enactment or instrument in connection with calculating student finance. Functions under section 22(2)(a), (c) and (k) of THEA 1998 are exercisable concurrently by the Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State.
Using their powers under section 22 of THEA 1998, the Welsh Ministers have made regulations authorising or requiring the payment of grants or loans to eligible students in Wales who are undertaking further or higher education courses. The current regulations are the Education (Student Support) (Wales) Regulations 2015 (ESSWR 2015). These set out the bulk of the provisions relating to financial support for students in Wales. Eligible students are able to apply for a subsidised fee loan (currently up to a maximum of £3,810) and a non-means tested tuition fee grant (currently up to a maximum of £5,190) to meet the fees for their course. They may also be eligible for various means tested grants or loans for living costs.
Students must meet the relevant requirements set out in ESSWR 2015 to qualify for particular types of financial support. The criteria for eligibility for the different loans and grants are complex and the regulations should be consulted to determine any individual case. Generally speaking, UK or EU nationals who are taking a designated course and are ordinarily resident in Wales will be eligible for some support to meet the fees for their course and to contribute to their living costs.
Under the regulations courses will usually only be 'designated' if they meet the criteria set out in regulation 5(1), which includes a requirement that the course is provided at a publicly funded institution. However, under regulation 5(8) the Welsh Ministers can designate courses of higher education that are not otherwise designated under regulation 5(1), meaning that courses provided by privately funded institutions may be designated.
Students undertaking designated courses at privately funded institutions in Wales are eligible to apply for the same support towards living costs as students undertaking designated courses at publicly funded institutions. In addition, they may be eligible for a loan towards their tuition fees up to a maximum of £6,000 per academic year but will not be eligible for any grant towards their fees.
Section 23 of THEA 1998 allows the Welsh Ministers to transfer or delegate any function exercisable by them by virtue of regulations made under section 22 (i.e. ESSWR 2015) to another body. The Welsh Ministers have exercised this function to delegate some functions relating to loans to the Students Loans Company.
In addition to the main student support regulations there are other regulations made under section 22 of THEA 1998 that relate to support to be provided to students undertaking particular types of higher education. These are:
- the Education (Student Support) (Dance and Drama) Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/2263), which provide for fee grants and maintenance loans for designated higher education dance and drama courses
- the Education (European University Institute) (Wales) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3037) which provide support for students taking certain higher education courses at the European University Institute.