Tag: Higher Education

Brexit in Wales – EU funding, research and Investment

This week, the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee focused their attention on EU funding, research and investment and the implications for Wales. You can watch the full session on Senedd.TV .

The objectives of this session were to consider:

  • the implications for Wales of Brexit on access to key EU funding sources;
  • the potential impact of Brexit more broadly on Welsh Higher Education;
  • to understand the potential implications and impact of Brexit on access to finance for key infrastructure developments in Wales.

You can follow the discussions on Twitter and Facebook using #BrexitinWales.  To keep up to date on the work of the Committee follow @SeneddEAAL.

Update

On 2 October the Prime Minister made a speech on Brexit at the Tory Party conference, covering a number of issues:

  • Article 50: the UK Government will trigger this no later than the end of March 2017. It will not consult the Houses of Parliament in doing this, asserting the right of royal prerogative, and that the UK Government will defend this position in the courts.
  • Great Repeal Bill: to be presented in the next Queen’s Speech, the Bill will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and enshrine all existing EU law into British law.
  • Control over immigration: the UK will decide on its own immigration rules post-Brexit.
  • Workers’ rights: the Prime Minister gave a commitment to preserve existing workers’ rights enshrined under EU law and to further enhance these.
  • No opt-outs, one United Kingdom: the Brexit negotiations will be undertaken as the UK and the UK will as one United Kingdom – there is no opt-out for Brexit and the Prime Minister stated ‘I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious union between the four nations of our United Kingdom’.
  • No replica model: negotiations with the EU will not be about copying another model – Norway model or Switzerland model. It is going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union. The focus will be on free trade, in goods and services aimed at giving British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market – and let European businesses do the same in the UK.

EU funding

Wales continues to be eligible to participate in EU programmes and access EU finance until the UK formally leaves the EU. Wales currently receives a considerable amount of funding from the EU.

The Wales Governance Centre published research ahead of the EU Referendum that suggests that Wales – in contrast to the UK as a whole – is a net beneficiary of EU funds.

These are some of the most relevant sources of EU funding to Wales:

  • Structural Funds: under the 2014 – 2020 round Wales has been allocated almost £2 billion from the EU – with £1.6 billion going to West Wales and the Valleys and over £325 million to East Wales.
  • Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): under the 2014 – 2020 round Wales receives around £250 million of funding each year in direct payments to farmers in addition to €355m million for its 2014 – 2020 rural development programme.
  • Horizon 2020: is the EU’s programme to support research and development and innovation. Up to May 2016 Wales has secured around €45 million from Horizon 2020 for 95 projects, including around €10 million for the COFUND initiative, with Welsh Higher Education accounting for around €28.5 million of this total.
  • Erasmus+: the EUs programme to support mobility in the field of education and training. This includes mobility in higher education for students and staff, which is a high priority for Welsh universities. It also includes mobility in other forms of education: further education, vocational training, and school education, as well as youth engagement, areas where Wales has traditionally been actively involved.

Accessing EU funding

Given non-EU Member States take part in a range of EU programmes, there will be strong interest in the negotiations in considering (i) whether the UK Government will prioritise continued participation in EU programmes beyond Brexit and (ii) if it does, which areas will be on its priority list.

The role of the Welsh Government and the Assembly in identifying which programmes would be of most interest to Welsh stakeholders and lobbying the UK Government to prioritise these in its negotiations is something to be considered.

What we can be certain about is that Wales will not be able to receive support from the regionally managed Structural Funds programmes nor the Common Agricultural Policy (including the Rural Development Programme).

UK Government: EU funding guarantee update

On 3 October the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond MP published an updated UK Government guarantee to support projects receiving funding under the current round of EU programmes.

The October statement extended the original deadline to ‘the point at which the UK leaves the EU’, following pressure from the Devolved Administrations, including the Welsh Government for the deadline to be extended.

The October statement confirms that the UK Government will:

  • Guarantee EU funding for structural and investment fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed after the Autumn Statement and which continue after we have left the EU.
  • These conditions will be applied in such a way that the current pipeline of committed projects are not disrupted, including agri-environment schemes due to begin this January.
  • Where the devolved administrations sign up to structural and investment fund projects under their current EU budget allocation prior to Brexit, the government will ensure they are funded to meet these commitments.

The specific references to agri-environment schemes due to begin in January alleviates the concerns expressed by the Welsh Government about the uncertainty around funding for these.

Higher Education

There is consistent support from the Welsh HE sector for continued participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. Both are viewed as important elements of the international and outward looking approach of the sector. The ability of academics to move posts freely within the EU was also valued highly.

The Welsh HE sector has consistently over recent years highlighted the under-funding of research capacity in Wales as a significant barrier to Welsh success in Horizon 2020. In 2015 the Leadership Foundation published a report which states there is a shortage of around 600 researchers in Wales.

Welsh HE has underlined the importance of EU funding to the sector, with EU Structural Funds being viewed as an important source to help ‘fill’ the funding gap, and to enable key investments that otherwise wouldn’t have taken place. The Swansea Bay Science Campus is a good example of this, combining EU Structural Funds with European Investment Bank finance, and is covered in further detail below in the section on EU investment in Wales.

EU students and Welsh HE

The Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) data shows a total of 7,095 EU national students were enrolled at Welsh universities in 2013/14 (a 4% increase from 2012/13). The majority came from Germany (18%), France (13%), UK EU-domiciled (11%) Spain and Ireland (8% each), Greece (7%), Poland (6%), Italy and Bulgaria (4% each), and Romania (3%).

In terms of the most popular subjects for EU students in Wales, enrolments were as follows:

  • Business & management -1,105
  • Humanities – 1,691
  • Engineering & technology – 988
  • Science – 926
  • Social sciences – 688

It is estimated that EU students currently provide at least £24m to Welsh universities and the overall impact to Wales attributable to income from EU students was £47m. An EU student studying in Wales on average generates £19.7k for Wales and 0.19 Full-time Equivalent jobs. Additional impact is also generated in the rest of the UK from students studying in Wales. These are likely to be a conservative estimate according to Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

EU Investment in Wales

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the European Union’s bank, owned by and representing the interests of the Member States. The UK owns a 16% share: the same as Italy, France and Germany. Although the EIB does invest outside the EU, 90% of loans are made within the Union.

Over the previous decade the EIB has directly invested nearly £2 billion in Wales. The EIB describes current EIB lending in the UK as being “at record levels and supporting a more diverse range of projects than many other EU countries”.

Following a departure from the EU, legal obligations concerning EIB loans already agreed in the UK would not change. However, Article 308 of the TFEU states that Members of the European Investment Bank “shall” (i.e. must) be Member States. Leaving the EU, therefore, would mean the UK would no longer be a member of the EIB.

The EIB is another source of finance to which organisations in Wales are eligible to apply for support. A number of projects were successful during the Fourth Assembly including the Science and Innovation Bay Campus at Swansea University (see below), officially opened in October 2015, which received €60m investment from the EIB. The Welsh Government submitted a number of project ideas for support under the European Fund for Structural Investment, managed by the EIB, during 2015, including the South Wales Metro project.

EU funding in Wales following Brexit  

It is not necessarily the case that leaving the European Union would result in either an end to the UK contributing to the EU budget, or receiving funding from it. As discussed in the previous blog on alternative models to EU membership, countries outside the EU that currently have a high degree of access to the Single Market (such as Norway and Switzerland) contribute to the EU budget and enjoy some level of participation in EU funding streams.

The European Economic Area Agreement ensures participation by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in a number of EU programmes, including Horizon 2020 (research and innovation) and Erasmus + (education and training). Although EEA members are not generally eligible for European Structural Funding, Norway and Liechtenstein qualify for some cross-border and transnational programmes. No non-EU countries are currently part of the CAP.

Fundamentally, the UK’s future access to EU funding programmes – both for the current programming period (2014-2020) and beyond – will be subject to negotiations during the withdrawal process.

Next steps

Next week on 10 October, the Committee will be looking into the implications for Wales in relation to agriculture and fisheries. The National Assembly for Wales’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee are also looking at these implications. You can contribute your ideas on how to address the implications on their online dialogue page.

You can read more about the implications for Wales by the National Assembly for Wales’s Research Team or catch-up on our previous blogs on international law and trade and developments to date.

You can follow the discussions on Twitter and Facebook using #BrexitinWales.  To keep up to date on the work of the Committee follow @SeneddEAAL.

How well is the Welsh Government doing its job?

This is a question Assembly Members at the National Assembly ask every day, in committee meetings, or in Plenary meetings, in the main debating chamber of the Senedd, in Cardiff Bay.

If the Welsh Government’s job is to “help improve the lives of people in Wales and make our nation a better place in which to live and work”, then it’s important that the Assembly hears from the wide range of people affected by the decisions that the Welsh Government makes. The National Assembly for Wales is the body tasked with analysing how well the Welsh Government is doing so, after all.

How the Assembly does this has changed significantly over the last few years, particularly when it comes to the work of Assembly committees. People still reply to invitations to write to the Assembly to give evidence. Individuals, organisations and charities still visit the Senedd to be quizzed by AMs in formal meetings, though different approaches are needed to hear from different audiences.

These are pictures of Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangouts for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding: 

Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding Julie Morgan AM and Jocelyn Davies AM taking part in a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding Screen shot of a web-chat with students on Google Hangout for the Finance Committee’s inquiry into Higher Education Funding

People everywhere lead increasingly busy lives, so making participation in the Assembly’s work as easy and accessible as possible is vital for engaging with the wide variety of people that make up the population of Wales. Increasingly at the Assembly, committees have been using digital channels to encourage people to share their views with us.

We’ve used Google Hangouts to speak with students about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Skills and Higher Education Funding, filmed members of the public on an iPad and shown it as evidence at formal committee meetings, and used Twitter to source questions to ask the leader of the Welsh Government, First Minister Carwyn Jones AM.

The following video is a video of Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Julie James AM being interviewed after taking part in their first web-chat on Google Hangout for the STEM Skills inquiry:

In the last few months we used Loomio for the first time, as part of the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry looking into alcohol and substance misuse in Wales. Loomio is a web-application to assist groups with collaborative decision-making processes.

A key part of the inquiry was talking directly with the people affected by these issues, but some people find attending official committee meetings intimidating. Also not all those affected have the capacity to put their thoughts and feelings to the Committee in writing. Loomio allowed the Committee to talk to people, without everyone needing to be in the same room.

Service providers and clients used the online forum to tell us what issues they had experienced, and what they wanted the Welsh Government to should do about it. This is a screenshot showing some of the contributions we had to the discussion:

loomio screenshot

Loomio discussion screen shot

At the end of the evidence-gathering process, once a Committee has considered everything that people have told them, they will usually write to the Welsh Government. This is to explain what steps the Committee would like to see the Welsh Government take to improve people’s lives in Wales, based on the evidence the Committee have heard.

This tends to be in official reports, which can be quite lengthy, but we are looking at different ways of presenting committee reports to make them shorter and easier to understand, at-a-glance.

One of the summary versions is this video, made for people who were filmed for an inquiry looking at youth entrepreneurship:

More recently we have used Adobe Slate to summarise a report on Poverty in Wales: https://slate.adobe.com/a/EN6np

Using digital channels and platforms has allowed us to engage with people more effectively and easily than before.

It’s also meant that more people can help the Assembly scrutinise the Welsh Government’s performance, so the Assembly’s recommendations to the Welsh Government are based on the issues people experience in their everyday lives.

Sharing good practice in scrutiny (2)

Outreach Manager Kevin Davies explains…

Welcome back! My first blog entry set the scene and explained how and why Swansea Council’s Scrutiny Committee came to visit the National Assembly for Wales to discuss ideas around public engagement in scrutiny.

In it I explained that wanted to explore ways of encouraging more people to take part in committee work, be it to help the Assembly scrutinise the work of the Welsh Government, or to help local council scrutinise the work of council leaders. We share the same challenge…sometimes we don’t hear from the variety of people would like to.
To read my first blog entry click here.

In this blog entry I’ll explain how we at the Assembly try to overcome this issue, and reference examples and case studies.

Consultation toolkit

I was really impressed by Swansea Council’s openness to ideas, and their desire to engage the public in the work they do. I appreciated some of the concerns that they had (that I’m sure every other public sector organisation shares) around having the time, effort and resource to do it properly. As a public sector organisation, this is something we at the Assembly also have to consider, and it shapes the types of activity we can offer and deliver.

A few years ago we produced our consultation toolkit (PDF 5.82MB). The toolkit is a list of engagement methods which have been used by the National Assembly and have been evaluated after use, with strengths, weaknesses suggestions of lead in times, costs and other considerations. It lists the different things the Assembly’s Outreach team can deliver when helping committees find more people to take part in a consultation. The toolkit includes a lot of different options, ways of gathering people’s opinions (evidence) including things like focus groups, events, filming video interviews, web-chats and surveys.

Finding people from different backgrounds, and hearing their perspectives helps Assembly Members understand the issues and the impact they have on people’s lives. Better informed Assembly Members (or councillors for that matter) leads to better scrutiny and better policies, so the value of engaging a broader group of people in this process shouldn’t be undervalued.

This video shows Rhun ap Iorwerth AM and Julie James AM talking about taking part in a web-chat with students on the subject of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Skills in Wales as part of committee scrutiny:

This video shows people who took part in video interviews for the Enterprise and Business Committee’s inquiry into youth entrepreneurship:

You might think that doing these things cost a lot of money. Using Google Hangouts to run web-chats is totally free. If you want to film video interviews with people in your area, an iPad will set you back about £200, which you can use to film people in high definition, and you can use an app called iMovie to edit the footage. A survey can be designed, published and promoted for little cost, using Facebook, Twitter and other channels. We have recently been promoting an inquiry into Supply Teaching in Wales through paid promoted Facebook posts which cost us £50 over the course of two weeks. This post (to date) has been shared 117 times and 39 comments made on the post.

Finding participants

Consider is who you see/work with on a day to day basis through the activities/services your organisations provide day to day. At the National Assembly we have communications staff which sees people coming into the Senedd, going into schools, colleges and youth clubs, and community groups across Wales to explain what the Assembly does and how they can get involved. We have used these interactions, things we do on a day-to-day basis, to explain issues  being discussed at the National Assembly at the moment, and provide people with direct opportunities to have their say on these topics.

When we find people to take part in engagement activity for committee consultations, we regularly contact charities, voluntary organisations, representative bodies and community groups. Local councils deliver a wide variety of services to different groups of people so engaging with these existing groups could be a very quick and easy way for councils to broaden the range of people who could contribute to their scrutiny work. Something we tried for the Human Transplantation Bill inquiry was leaving leaflets at GP surgeries, targeting people with specific needs in a specific area.

Feedback

One of the areas that the crew from Swansea Council were really interested in was how we feedback to people who have contributed throughout the process. We showed some examples of how we’ve done this, such as this  .

Committing to feeding back to participants is really important, or you could undo all the good work done during engagement activity by leaving people without updates on what their involvement lead to. At the Assembly we are currently looking at how we communicate with the public, particularly how we communicate the work of committees. As part of this process we will be considering how we keep people informed about the process of an inquiry they have taken part in, and what platforms (be it by using video, Storify or simply an e-mail) we should use when doing this. Piecing together the customer journey seems to be an area both Swansea Council and the National Assembly are looking at at the moment, and hopefully we can work together in doing this. Watch this space.

That seems like a good place to bring this blog entry to a close. The next entry will look at the planning process, and how this work happens behind the scenes at the Assembly to make all of these engagement opportunities possible.

Guest Blog – STEM Skills

Putting a group of young scientists, mathematicians, technicians and electronics students in the same room was rather a frightening idea. It was fortunate therefore that the Assembly had arranged for us to speak over the internet.

My name is Aled Illtud, and I am studying Physics at Aberystwyth University. I, and a number of other STEM students, had the opportunity to discuss our subjects and how we can improve or maintain different aspects of those subjects. The conversation was held on Google Hangouts and a number of issues were discussed.

The conversation began with Members of the Enterprise and Business Committee asking us why we had chosen our courses, are there prospects of a job at the end of the course and how we are enjoying the subject. I was concerned mainly about fighting for an increase in the growth of the Welsh language within STEM subjects, which is apparent from the webchat, that is available for you to read.

What surprised me most was how enthusiastic the other students were to have their voices heard. It is good to see that people are sufficiently concerned about their subjects to be able to hold an interesting discussion on what needs to be changed or maintained in their subject fields.

Final Blog Image

It was good to be part of this conversation. I suggest that everyone else who is enthusiastic about his/her course should take advantage of any similar opportunities. Express your views, promote progress in your subject!

For further information on the Enterprise and Business Committee follow-up inquiry into STEM Skills in Wales, click here:

http://www.senedd.assemblywales.org/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=9156