Page updated 30th September – You can see the response Hilary has now had from the Department for Education about this issue here.

Many constituents have been contacting me about the impact of coronavirus on higher education.

Universities are of enormous value to our country and I am deeply concerned that the UK higher education sector is facing an unprecedented set of challenges.

A 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.

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 4 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. The Government must therefore now step in to support universities, mitigate this funding shortfall and publish a plan to safeguard their future.

I have written to the DfE but have not yet received a reply.

Hilary Benn MP

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