The Higher Education (Wales) Act 2015 can be regarded as the principal basis for the ‘regulation’ of higher education provision in relation to Wales. That Act established a new regulatory framework for higher education providers in Wales that have a fee and access plan in force, approved by HEFCW (‘Regulated Institutions’). Currently, section 4(1) and (2) of the Higher Education (Wales) Act 2015 provides that a fee and access plan must specify a period in respect of which it is to have effect and that period must not exceed two years. This regulatory framework does not rely upon HEFCW providing financial support to those providers under Part 2 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 or Part 3 of the Education Act 2005.
Regulated Institutions are able to set their own fees, up to a maximum set out in regulations made under the 2015 Act. The maximum fee will generally only apply to first degree or equivalent courses. Part 2 of the 2015 Act provides for HEFCW to enforce compliance with those fees. Part 3 of the 2015 Act also provides for HEFCW to assess the quality of education provided in Wales by and on behalf of regulated institutions and Part 4 provides for a financial management code to apply to those institutions.
Currently, regulations made by the Welsh Ministers under section 22 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 provide that courses of higher education offered by regulated institutions are automatically designated for purposes of student support in respect tuition fee and maintenance.
Further in respect of the designation of higher education courses for purposes of tuition fee and maintenance support, Part 2 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 deals with financial provision for higher and further education. In particular, section 22 of the 1998 Act confers functions on the Welsh Ministers concerning the giving of financial support to students who are undertaking courses further and or higher education.
Currently, SI 2018/191 (W.42) and other regulations made under section 22 of the 1998 Act confer a power on the Welsh Ministers to specify that a course of higher education is to be treated as a designated course despite the fact that it would not otherwise be a designated course.
The Higher Education (Amounts) (Wales) Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/1496) prescribe the maximum amount which an institution with an approved fee and access plan in force will be able to charge by way of tuition fees for full-time undergraduate courses. Generally, the prescribed maximum amount for the purposes of section 5(3) of the 2015 Act is £9,000.There are variations in this figure for certain specific courses such as sandwich courses and courses of initial teacher training.
The Higher Education (Qualifying Courses, Qualifying Persons and Supplementary Provision) (Wales) Regulations 2015 (S.I. 2015/1484) prescribe the qualifying courses and qualifying persons for the purposes of section 5 of the 2015 Act which sets out that fee and access plans must specify (or provide for the determination of) fee limits in relation to qualifying courses each academic year. Fee limits are the maximum amount which a qualifying person will have to pay an institution for undertaking a qualifying course. A list of ‘qualifying persons’ is set out in the Schedule to the Higher Education (Qualifying Courses, Qualifying Persons and Supplementary Provision) (Wales) Regulations 2015 . The categories of student who can benefit from regulated fees include, very broadly, persons settled in the UK; refugees; persons granted stateless leave to enter or remain; European Economic Act (EEA) workers; persons who are settled in the United Kingdom and have exercised a right of residence elsewhere; and EU nationals. People outside these categories, for example students from outside the EEA, are not qualifying persons and so do not benefit from the maximum fee limit provisions.