EDUCATION Minister Kirsty Williams said she was concerned by the economic impact of the coronavirus in the higher education sector.

Since education providers in Wales closed for face-to-face learning on March 20, colleges and universities have moved to remote learning, delivering online lectures, tutorials and reviews.

This is expected to continue for much of the next academic year, which could see thousands of students - from the rest of the UK and abroad - not moving to Wales to complete their studies.


"We are concerned about the potential impact of Covid-19 on our ability to recruit international students to universities in Wales and ensure those overseas students who have already started courses will come back to complete their studies," said Ms Williams.

"We are working very closely with the higher education funding council, as well as Universities Wales and our vice chancellors.

"We have taken some immediate steps to respond to the immediate financial pressures that the HE sector is facing, and we continue to work with the funding council to identify what we can do next to support the HE sector going forward and what we can do to ensure, going into the next academic year, our universities will be in a great place to continue to offer what they do."

The Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said: “We do not only want to bounce back from this pandemic, but to build back better by creating a national economy which sees employment, wealth and prosperity spread more equally across Wales. The post-16 education sector will be crucial to this.

“As we shape our recovery from the impacts of coronavirus, we are committed to doing all we can to provide a strong foundation for those looking for employment, learners, trainees and apprentices to flourish in the future.

“This incredibly challenging period has already highlighted the talent, commitment and incredible resilience of training and learning providers in supporting individuals here in Wales. It’s efforts like these that will help ensure we emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”

Ms Williams spoke at Wednesday's press conference to outline the ‘Resilience Plan for post-16 learning’, which focuses on how the Welsh Government will support learners aged 16 and over, including further and higher education, apprenticeships, employability and adult learning.

The plan identifies the groups most in need of support - including year 11 and 13 students, and students on vocational courses who need to access colleges or workplaces to complete their qualifications.

The plan is divided into three phases. The current ‘rescue’ phase is focused on ensuring education providers have immediate security of funding and arrangements for learning in place this academic year.

The 'review’ phase plans for potential changes this autumn, and the ‘renew’ phase will put arrangements in place for the remainder of the academic year 2020-21.

Ms Williams also emphasised she would not be setting date for when schools were going to fully reopen.

"At this stage we need more evidence about the progression of the disease, we need more confidence around that evidence and to build that confidence among key stakeholders, and we need more control over the disease," she said.

"With any decision that I make with regards to the next stages of education, at the forefront of my mind will be the health and the emotional wellbeing of our staff and our children."

The Education Minister also announced that £1.3m of capital funding, part of the Sêr Cymru programme, will be used to invite applications from Welsh universities to submit novel research proposals that could contribute to or boost the advancement of research that impacts COVID-19.