UK Government Announces Support Package for Universities and Students

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, many institutions and individuals are experiencing hardship and require support. The UK Government has announced that it will be considering numerous measures in order to support students and the higher education sector.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced that the package of measures includes stabilising the universities admissions this autumn, in order to help universities and students during these challenging times. What this means is that higher education institutions in the UK, will be able to recruit full-time undergraduate students from the UK and EU up to a temporary set level. This limit will be based on their predictions for the next academic year, including an additional 5%. 

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The Government will also be allocating 10,000 additional places, where 5,000 will be assigned to students who are studying nursing or related health courses. This is to ensure that the increased number of students will continue to support essential public services. Although there will be specified exceptions, this measure will only apply to full-time, undergraduate, UK/EU students. International students will not be benefitting from this measure. 

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson claimed that he is “grateful to universities for their innovation and dedication”, adding: 

“I know this is an unsettling time for all involved, and we are working tirelessly with the sector to do everything we can to stabilise admissions and protect a vital part of our country’s economy and society.”

As part of the package of measures, higher education providers will have to work in the students’ best interest when making offers. These institutions should abstain from making volume unconditional offers and other practices which might ‘force’ a student to make pressured decisions against their interest and preferences.  

The package of measures further extents to protecting students when it comes to making informed decisions about entry into HE. What this means is that the Government will be supporting students and reassuring them that there are available options they can choose from, which are related to their career aspirations. 

The Government is working with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in order to reinforce the Clearing process for the year 2020. Both domestic and international students will have the opportunity to review their choices through Clearing. These students will continue to have the opportunity to change their choice of provider or course, even after they have received grades. The new service that will make this possible will offer them alternative possibilities based on their achievements and course interests. 

The Government has cooperated with OfS (Office for Students) in order to make sure providers are able to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students who were impacted by the coronavirus situation. Providers will have the opportunity to use the funding of £46m through April and May, for student hardship funds and mental health support, and also to support providers’ access and plans of participation. 

Science Minister, Amanda Solloway, has announced that £100m of public funding will be brought forward to this academic year in order to support the universities’ research activities which are vital. In addition, tuition fee payments estimated to be worth £2.6bn will be brought forward to help universities overcome their financial risks over autumn. According to the Government, providers will be able to apply for its support packages, including the business loan support schemes, which depending on eligibility and take-up could be worth at least £700m to the sector.

Science Minister admitted that the UK is home to “some of the world’s leading scientist and researchers”, saying: 

“From the study of disease to vaccine development, their work has already proved itself to be invaluable to our response to coronavirus.”

Regrading international students, the UK has claimed that it continues to welcome students from overseas, and Ministers are working across Government in order to ensure universities can proceed to attract international students. The Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) are working to see how the International Education Strategy can be updated in order to duly respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The Government is also set on introducing the new Graduate Immigration Route for international students by summer 2021. The route will allow international students to remain in the UK for up to two years after graduation in order to find employment. 

Find more information about international students in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic here.

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