A DECISION to increase university tuition fees in Wales from next year has been reversed.

In July the Welsh Government announced maximum tuition fees would rise with inflation to £9,295 from the start of the 2018-2019 academic year.

But this morning education secretary Kirsty Williams announced fees will remain at £9,000 for the next two years.

This has been made possible with a £26 million investment by the Welsh Government.

The repayment threshold at which undergraduate loans begin to be repaid will also be increased from £21,000 to £25,000, subject to discussions with HM Treasury.

The decision to allow fees to increase was widely condemned when it was announced earlier this year. Labour had pledged in its General Election manifesto to scrap fees altogether.

Announcing the plans, Ms Williams said: “I will not allow the political turmoil and uncertainty in England to knock us off course from delivering on a stable and sustainable higher education system in Wales.

“Our sector does not operate in isolation and we must provide stability for our institutions to compete both domestically and internationally.

“Given the uncertain political climate in England I have carefully considered our future plans for tuition fee levels.

“After consulting with our universities and the National Union of Students (NUS), the maximum tuition fee will remain at £9,000.

“We are also on track to deliver the most equitable and progressive student support system in the UK, starting next academic year.

“Unlike the government across the border, we are delivering investment to support both students and universities as part of these changes.

“I also remain concerned about the rate of interest charged to students whilst they study and I will continue to discuss this with counterparts in Whitehall.”

NUS Wales president Ellen Jones welcomed the news, calling it “an incredibly positive development in the way Wales runs student funding”.

“I am thrilled that the Welsh Government will maintain the tuition fee cap at £9,000 and not press ahead with linking tuition fees to inflation,” she said.

“Doing that would have caused uncertainty and concern for students from the least privileged backgrounds, and I commend Kirsty Williams for being on the side of students.

“Increasing the repayment threshold to £25,000 will also go a significant way to lifting the barriers that students face in terms of loans.

“It will mean that graduates will not be required to pay back a penny of their student loans until they’re earning a decent wage.”

She added: “These are very exciting times for education in Wales, and Kirsty Williams has a golden opportunity to build a system which is accessible, inclusive, and crucially, sustainable.

“That means that while we cannot expect students to bear the strain of austerity, it is also important to ensure that universities are well-funded to deliver the excellent education that our students deserve.

“Kirsty Williams’ announcement this morning shows that she is committed to listening to students’ concerns and putting learners at the heart of these changes.

“I remain committed to the principle of education as a right and not a privilege, but I also appreciate the difficult economic times in which we find ourselves.

“Kirsty Williams’ announcements today will help the least privileged students in Wales to access education, and I am proud of the role that we have played in speaking up for students.”

And Plaid Cymru’s education spokesman Llyr Gruffydd said: "I welcome the announcement by the education secretary which is a significant victory for Plaid Cymru and others who campaigned against the tuition fees hike.

"We have been the only party united and consistent in our opposition to forcing students to pay more for their higher education.

"While this is a positive move, the reality is that the Labour Welsh Government never should have even considered a rise which made its policy as punitive as that of the Tories in Westminster.”

He added: “The fact that the money has been found shows that the Labour Welsh Government's original tuition fees hike was a political decision, not a necessity.

"This calls into question their commitment to giving our young people the best possible deal as they embark on higher education in preparation for the world of work.

"Plaid Cymru will continue to make the case for moving towards a model where students pay no tuition fees at all, as has been achieved in Scotland."

The Welsh Government has also announced the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales will be given £16 million to deal with the change, as well as an extra £5 million in both 2018-2019 and the following year to allow institutions to provide bursaries and grants to postgraduates.