The funding is intended to support activities such as increased mental health services and student financial hardship funds. It will also help universities bolster their student support services, including food services for students who are required to self-isolate.
The funding will help increase capacity in students’ unions and universities to provide advice and support for both students and staff, with a focus on mental health support and suicide-safer measures. This includes online services and support through the medium of Welsh.
Some of the funding will be targeted at learning support for vulnerable students and those with disabilities or caring responsibilities, including helping to address digital poverty.
The funding will be managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and is in addition to the £27 million Higher Education Investment and Recovery Fund announced in the summer.
Announcing the funding, the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams said:
Going away to university can be a difficult time for many students, which has been exacerbated by the current circumstances. It’s been a priority for me to support our universities and students this year in particular.
Our universities here in Wales are leaders when it comes to student wellbeing. Following the £27m I announced to support our universities this year, this funding will help universities continue their important role of supporting and developing our students.
Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language, said:
This year has been a challenging time for everyone and can be particularly difficult if you’re a student away from your family and many of your friends. I’m pleased the Welsh Government is able to support students’ wellbeing through this period.
Becky Ricketts, NUS Wales President, added:
This is a welcome investment in the wellbeing of students across Wales. The funding will deliver much-needed support for student mental health services, which are experiencing unprecedented levels of demand due to the impact of the pandemic.
We also welcome funding to address digital poverty and for students’ unions, which have done an incredible amount of work this year to support both students and the wider community.