Coronavirus UK: Universities face £2.5bn tuition fee loss next year

Apr 22, 2020 by

Capping student numbers will not avert financial catastrophe, report warns

Capping the number of students who can attend each British university will not stave off the financial catastrophe that institutions face following the coronavirus outbreak, a report from the University and College Union (UCU) warns.

The report forecasts the sector could lose around £2.5bn next year in tuition fees alone, along with the loss of 30,000 university jobs, based on gloomy predictions of international and domestic students staying away if Covid-19 continues unchecked.

The government is negotiating with the university sector to limit the number of students each institution can admit in September, in the hope that it will help some avoid cutthroat competition and possible bankruptcy if their student intake slumps.

But the report, commissioned by UCU from London Economics, says a cap could be ineffective if more students are prepared to sit out next year. The consultancy’s forecasts show even the likes of Oxford and Cambridge seeing falling numbers of undergraduates entering from the UK and abroad.

“Our world-renowned universities are doing crucial work now as we hunt for a [Covid-19] vaccine and will be vital engines for our recovery both nationally and in towns and cities across the UK. It is vital that the government underwrites funding lost from the fall in student numbers. These are unprecedented times and without urgent guarantees, our universities will be greatly damaged at just the time they are needed most,” said Jo Grady, the UCU’s general secretary.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow education secretary, backed the call for greater government support. “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,” she said.

The report suggests that universities could lose £1.5bn in international student fees, more than £600m from UK-based students, and £350m from students from the EU, based on surveys of students’ intentions, including one conducted for Ucas, the admissions service.

Gavan Conlon, a partner at London Economics, said the pandemic will result in a “very substantial loss” in enrolments and income, requiring significant government support.

“The proposed student numbers cap will not be enough to avoid an overly competitive market for the remaining pool of applicants, with the impact of this actually being worse for some institutions than the effect of the pandemic itself,” Conlon said.

Source: Coronavirus UK: Universities face £2.5bn tuition fee loss next year | Education | The Guardian

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