My Lords, Covid-19 has impacted all sectors of the nation. Education is not an exception. There is a clear sense that fewer students will decide to opt for higher education this year and possibly next year. This could put severe strain on providers’ finances.
To mitigate this, providers have changed their admission practices with mass use of unconditional offers, thereby increasing their recruitment of new students in 2020 and 2021. This could end up lowering education standards. While the providers will have a bigger intake of students, the question arises whether these students will suffer educationally. Choices will inevitably have to be made between good education and providers’ finances. In my opinion, good education must trump finance. The Government therefore have to provide additional finances to universities and colleges. Unconditional offers could attract more students, but ruin their future.
There is also the question of overseas students, who pay higher fees to come to United Kingdom universities. These higher student fees form a big proportion of providers’ overall finances. There has been considerable debate about visas for students who come from overseas. The Home Office must open up its visa system so that it is easier for overseas students to come to the UK for degree programmes. If the Government do not relax the visa system, overseas students will end up going to other countries, such as Canada, the USA and Australia. Since the Government have provided extra funding for businesses and for those who have lost their jobs, the education sector must also be given resources during the pandemic, above all to ensure that UK universities’ education standards are not compromised.