UK universities urge ministers for emergency funds to survive COVID-19

UK universities urge ministers for emergency funds to survive COVID-19
By Aditi Khanna

London, Apr 10 () Universities across the UK on Friday launched an urgent appeal for the British government to step in with emergency funding to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, which threatens their biggest income source from international students.

Universities UK (UUK), the country's advocacy organisation for higher education institutions, says its modelling shows the risks to fee income from international students, from countries like India, totals 6.9 billion pounds across the UK higher education sector.
Without proactive action and funding support, it warns that some universities would likely face financial failure and has presented a set of measures as part of a paper addressed to senior government ministers.
"The package of measures we have proposed today will support universities across all four nations of the UK to ensure that they remain able to weather the very serious financial challenges posed by COVID-19," said Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK.

"It will help to protect the student interest, to maintain research capacity, to prevent institutions failing and maintain the capacity to play a central role in the recovery of the economy and communities following the crisis," he said.

Universities are calling for an extra 2 billion pounds in research funding as well as emergency loans for universities that faced "significant income losses".

Among its set of measures within the "Achieving stability in the higher education sector following COVID-19" paper, UUK calls on the government to encourage and enable international students to choose to study in the UK as planned and deliver transformation funds to support some universities over the next two to three years to significantly reshape to achieve longer-term sustainability.

It also calls for protection from cuts to courses which help meet the national need for public sector workers such as health professionals and teachers and provide targeted support for retraining/reskilling for people whose jobs are affected by coronavirus.UUK's paper also provides a commitment to universities doing everything they can to reduce costs and further increase efficiency through strong actions such as recruitment freezes and new tighter controls on spending.

"Universities have already made a huge contribution to the national effort to fight COVID-19 and moving forward will act collectively and responsibly to promote sector-wide financial stability in these challenging times and help the country to get back on its feet and people to rebuild their lives," added Jarvis.

Overseas students pay a higher rate of tuition fees than domestic students and there are fears that these numbers could be hard hit as fewer students from the UK's top source countries of China and India take up courses in the aftermath of the outbreak.

The university sector says it has already lost 790 million pounds in cancelled business activities, such as conferences, catering and student accommodation.

There is also uncertainty about whether campuses will be able to re-open for its session later this year in the autumn or whether many UK students will defer entry this year.

"The outbreak poses significant challenges to the sector and the government is working closely with universities to understand the financial risks and implications they might face at this uncertain time," a Department for Education statement said. AK RUP

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