Students wrongly handed £3m in grants


The Welsh Government will write off £3 million in university grant payments after they were incorrectly given to students.

Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education, blamed the error on a “genuine misinterpretation” of regulations for student support.

The incorrect payments were made over the past 10 years to students on distance learning courses, despite the grants being only for those who physically attend a college rather than learn from home.

The money is given to help students to look after family members or others who rely on them during their studies.

In total £3.25m in “grants for dependants” were wrongly paid out in the last decade, which Ms Williams said would now be written off by the Welsh Government.

In a written statement to AM’s in the Welsh Assembly she said Student Finance Wales and the Open University in Wales had paid the money “in good faith” and “solely due to a genuine misinterpretation of the regulations”.

Ms Williams said students who started their studies before 2018 would continue to receive the grants, and said it would not be fair to remove access to the financial support they have received so far.

She added: “I would like to confirm to members that the Welsh Government has ensured that the 2018/19 student support regulations leave no room for ambiguity regarding the eligibility of students on distance learning courses.”

Welsh Conservative and shadow education secretary Suzy Davies AM said that she welcomed the news students would not have to repay the wrongly-awarded grants, but questioned how it took a decade for the Wales Audit office to pick up the mistake.

Ms Davies said: “Questions need to be answered as to which body was responsible for this, was due process followed, and why it was able to go on for so long.

“Equally important, why did the Wales Audit Office never pick this during the decade that this error which cost the taxpayers a sum which could have paid for dozens of teachers instead?

“I will be taking up this line of inquiry with the Welsh Government until the public gets the answers it deserves.

“Wales had enough of this government losing its money through mismanagement.

“This country deserves better.”