Thank you to those constituents who have contacted me to raise concerns about how coronavirus is affecting higher education. Universities provide enormous value to our country and I am deeply concerned that the UK higher education sector is facing an unprecedented set of challenges.
I am aware that with coronavirus creating an uncertain future for international students, many universities are facing a huge reduction in income which could have catastrophic effects on their ability to operate.
A recent report by London Economics for the University and College Union shows that coronavirus and ensuing recession will lead to 111,000 fewer UK and 121,000 fewer international first-year students attending UK universities this year, resulting in a £2.5bn funding black hole. It warns that without Government intervention, an estimated 30,000 university jobs are at risk, with a further 32,000 jobs under threat throughout the wider economy.
The Government must step in to support universities and mitigate their funding shortfall to prevent the significant economic impact this report predicts.
Furthermore, as you may be aware, the Office for Budget Responsibility has warned that education will be the sector hardest hit by coronavirus, with the impact likely to be felt most by universities.
UK universities must be valued as part of the frontline response to the coronavirus pandemic, supplying students to the NHS and conducting world-class research into the virus.
Additionally, universities bring significant benefits to their local communities. If these institutions were to disappear, the damaging consequences would extend beyond the classroom and impact locally and nationally.
On 4th May 2020, the Government announced a range of measures to protect students and the higher education sector from the impact of coronavirus. Disappointingly, this package offers no long-term security to our universities.
We cannot allow the closure of any university to add to the economic impact of the virus. The Government must urgently produce a plan to safeguard the future of our universities. It must underwrite all higher education institutions to secure their future and their role in our economic recovery.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to urge the Government to provide comprehensive support and ensure that our world class university sector remains world class for future generations.