Russell Group response to Government support package for universities and students

04 May 2020

In response to the range of measures announced by the Government to protect students and the higher education sector from the impact of coronavirus, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

"Covid-19 is an awful tragedy that is affecting families across the country, and the health and economic impacts will be with us for years to come. Our universities are playing a significant role in the fightback against Covid-19, but they are already under strain on many fronts and there is no getting away from the fact that financial pressures will escalate in the coming academic year. Today's measures are an important first step in protecting the skills and expertise that universities provide, which contribute billions to the UK economy. They will also help to maintain the best possible student experience to protect our world-leading reputation, which attracts people from around the globe. Bringing forward tuition fee payments and some recurrent research money will help manage cashflow, but we also need other areas of government financial support such as the CCFF to work better for universities.

"The sector-wide agreement on student intakes is designed to reassure anxious students and parents awaiting A-level results. To be clear, no prospective student who makes their grades will be disadvantaged by these temporary changes to admissions in England, which also allow for a margin of growth this year. The proposal on student intakes was put forward by the sector itself, so we hope that additional, albeit temporary, regulatory powers proposed by the OfS to oversee the sector agreement will not need to be used. Governments in the Devolved Nations will also need to consider how they will support their universities and allow additional places for students who will now be an even more important part of the UK's economic recovery.

"The big remaining challenge is to address the financial sustainability of research. Universities face significant shortfalls in international students and other sources of income that we need to underpin vital work that otherwise goes under-funded. The research sustainability taskforce is central to this next phase, and we look forward to helping the Government develop a plan that can release the investment needed to transform our economy while also tackling major health, societal and environmental challenges.

"Universities will always do their part – helping the NHS and our communities in the fight against coronavirus, while taking immediate steps to make savings and deliver the best value for every pound we spend. However, the effects of this virus will be long term and it is vital the country is in a strong position to bounce back. The ideas, skills and innovation of our universities, students and staff will be at the heart of this and we will continue to work with the Government to protect those qualities and unleash Britain’s potential."

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