NPC Wales handed in a petition to the National Assembly for Wales on Thursday 25 April 2002 calling for equal access to postgraduate study. The petition was submitted by Natasha Hirst, David Manning and James Groves on behalf of the 400 signatories who wished the Assembly to register their complaint.
There are two specific things the National Assembly can do, that are within its powers, to improve access to postgraduate study:
1) Allow postgraduates to apply for Assembly Learning Grants.
2) Ensure that the applications by postgraduates who apply for access funds (now called Financial Contingency Funds) are considered favourably, and that this budget for 2002/3 is set at a level that recognises the substantial financial hardship that postgraduates face.
The new Assembly Learning Grants are intended to help the poorest Welsh students, yet postgraduates are not even allowed to apply for these grants despite the fact that some of the poorest Welsh students are in fact postgraduates. The result of this underfunding is that access to postgraduate study is determined by an ability to pay substantial tuition fees as well as ordinary living costs, not the ability to learn.
David Manning, Chair of NPC Wales and a PhD student in Music at Cardiff University, said "The National Assembly Government says it is committed to increasing access and widening participation in higher education. This commitment seems to stop if you become a postgraduate student."
The National Assembly is obliged to officially note receipt of petitions submitted as an item of Assembly business. This will probably occur after the summer recess.
The NPC Wales committee would like to thank all the students who signed the petition, and in particular the students and students union officers in Bangor, Aberystwyth, Swansea and Cardiff who took time to collect signatures. NPC Wales will have a close eye on how postgraduates facing financial hardship are supported as the Assembly Learning Grants are introduced for undergraduates.