Wales politics

Tuition fees: Carwyn Jones says cap would save money

First Minister Carwyn Jones says cutting the maximum university fee for students in England by a third would save Wales money.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said his party would reduce the tuition fee cap from £9,000 to £6,000 if in power.

Most Welsh students are set to pay about £3,400 a year from 2012, with the Welsh Government paying the rest.

Mr Jones said it could mean the Wales saving "a lot of money" if Labour win the next UK election.

He said: "It would save us money because of course it would mean that we wouldn't have to provide our students with as much grant funding in order to go to university in England."

Speaking to the BBC Politics Show at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, he added: "If Welsh students go to England then we make up the difference between three thousand-odd [pounds] and nine thousand.

"If English fees were capped at six thousand, clearly it would mean that we would have to find half the money, pretty much.

"That's a lot of money to save and it would certainly help the Welsh budget if this policy was introduced in England."

Based on the Welsh Government's own calculations, the cost of providing the current subsidies could be as much as £2.3bn over the next nine years.

Ed Miliband said Labour would reduce the cap to ease the debt burden on students.

It would be partly funded by higher interest on student loans for graduates earning more than £65,000 a year.

Mr Miliband - who voted against tuition fee increases last year - denied Tory claims the move amounted to a U-turn.

Universities Minister David Willetts said Mr Miliband's call for a tuition fee cap made Labour's vote against fee increases last year look "completely cynical".

"Ed Miliband promised a graduate tax and now he's accepting fees have to increase to finance universities in tough times."

The UK government is allowing universities in England to charge up to £9,000 per year for undergraduate courses, raising the cap from its 2011/12 level of £3,375.

Eight out of 10 Welsh universities have said they intend to charge maximum tuition fees of £9,000 a year from September 2012.

However, it is thought most Welsh students will pay roughly £3,400 a year for studying with the Welsh government paying the rest.

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