Supporting Universities and Students during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about supporting the UK's universities.

Our universities contribute hugely to the economy and more widely to society and I understand the concerns about their finances. Universities are at the core of our response to this coronavirus, not only leading on research into potential cures and vaccines, but also as a fundamental part of the knowledge economy which will be so key to the national recovery.

I am pleased that therefore Ministers have announced measures to support students and universities through these difficult times.
To stabilise admissions, temporary student number controls have been put in place. Providers will be able to recruit students up to a temporary set level, based on provider forecasts, which allows additional growth of up to 5 per cent in the next academic year. The Education Secretary will also have the discretion to allocate an additional 10,000 places on top of the controls, of which 5,000 will be allocated to students studying nursing or allied health courses, to ensure growing numbers that will support our vital public services. A ban on unscrupulous recruitment practices, such as the large-scale use of unconditional offers, and a more structured approach to clearing, will also ensure the admissions process this year is fair and orderly.

An estimated £2.6 billion of tuition fee payments will be bought forward to help universities better manage financial risks over the autumn. This will have no impact on students. A further £100m of public funding will be brought forward to this academic year to help protect vital university research activities.

Ministers have confirmed that education providers are eligible to apply for the broader COVID-19 support packages, including business loan support schemes, which the Office for Students estimates could be worth at least £700m to the sector. Further guidance has been published about how providers should access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to safeguard staff jobs, in particular stating that any grant from the scheme should not duplicate other sources of public funding where these are being maintained, such as UK home student tuition fees.

Further details about the support for universities can be accessed here.  Much of this support draws on proposals from universities and I encourage Ministers to remain open minded about adapting to the needs of universities as the pandemic unfolds.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.