Welsh Government scraps Financial Contingency Fund

THE WELSH Government this week has revealed that it is to scrap the Financial Contingency Fund (FCF). Universities were informed that the fund would no longer be available to students this year and therefore they will need to find alternatives before the new academic year starts next month.

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The fund, totalling over £2 million, supported over 5,000 students last year, and gave assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The fund provided help if a student had high additional costs that were not covered by funding, were in an unexpected financial crisis, were at risk of dropping out due to financial problems or if they had budgeted badly and needed to get back on track.

Support included funding for books, childcare and disability costs for those who could not manage on their own.

With the new academic year quickly approaching, it will now be up to Universities themselves to come up with alternative arrangements.

The fund helped over 250 Aberystwyth students last year and provided nearly 250k in support for students who otherwise may have had to drop out.

This announcement comes after the recently released research from the National Union of Students (NUS) stated that 55% of students in Wales have considered dropping out due to not being able to to meet their basic living costs.

NUS Wales President Beth Button has said:

“I am truly shocked that our government in Wales has taken a page out of the Westminster playbook and decided to scrap hardship funds for higher education. The decision to announce this just weeks before the start of the academic term will not only leave many students who rely on this funding deeply concerned about their finances but universities with no time to find alternative ways to fill this black hole. For many students, this funding is vital in supporting them to stay in education.

“I’m angry that the Welsh Government has done exactly what the Coalition did: break their pledge. In 2011, several AMs in the cabinet, including our Education Minister, pledged to NUS Wales that they would maintain discretionary student support in Wales. I hope they prove students wrong and reverse this decision immediately.”

Will Atkinson, the Welfare Officer for Aberystwyth Students’ Union gave this statement:

“It’s very sad that the axe has fallen on FCF. The University used this fund to prevent 266 students from dropping out last year. This cut will result in a £195K shortfall in student support next year. There are some significantly smaller funds still available however, made possible through the kind donations of alumni. If you are struggling to pay the bills, please continue to contact the University or Union as normal. We are still here to help.”

The response from Aberystwyth University and other Welsh Universities is still ongoing and we will bring you further updates as they become available.

You can find the full NUS statement here. You can read the recently released blog from Aber SU Welfare Officer here.