The Welsh Conservatives have said fewer and fewer people are choosing to study in Wales because the Welsh Government are failing to make Wales an attractive place to work.
Wales has become the only part of the UK where the total number of students given a place has fallen compared to the previous year, with acceptances down 5.7%.
This continues a trend where the number of people applying to at least one Welsh university over the last two years has fallen significantly – 6.3% since 2017 and 6.2% the year before.
Welsh applicants were also more likely to go to a university outside their home nation with over 40% studying elsewhere in the UK.
The number of students from the European Union fell 20.8%, while those from non-EU countries dropped by 6.5%.
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Education Secretary Suzy Davies AM, said:
“The Education Secretary has admitted that the so called “Diamond Dividend”, which has been created by changes to the way student places are financed, will not be the huge bonus in direct funding to universities which they anticipated.
“The other UK nations’ governments have boosted investment in quality research, the work that attracts the most talented: the Welsh Government has not.
“And, with the lowest wages, GVA, and productivity rate of all UK nations, the Welsh Labour-led Government has failed to make Wales a challenger to other parts of the UK for work after graduating.
“We have great universities, and some seriously clever innovators, but persuading young people to study here has become harder as the Welsh Labour-led Government consistently fail to make our country the economic powerhouse it has the potential to be.
“I fear that if this current Welsh Government continue to hold our research universities back like this, the problems facing our higher education sector will become chronic. The Welsh Conservatives recognise that we need to invest in innovation, not frustration, to keep our brightest and best.”