Higher Education: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 13th May 2020.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the covid-19 lockdown on the dropout rate of low-income students from higher education programmes.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

The government is clear that we do not want to see any students miss out on the opportunity to benefit from our excellent higher education (HE) system as a result of COVID-19. A package of stabilisation measures for the HE sector in England has been announced to boost support for students, stabilise the admissions system and ease pressures on universities’ finances.

This will mean that students can complete their studies and obtain the qualifications they deserve, with as little further disruption as is possible.

HE providers are best placed to identify the needs of their student body, as well as how to develop the services needed to support it. HE providers need to consider how they support all students, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes. Many providers will have hardship funds to support students in times of need, including emergencies. The expectation is that where any student requires additional support, providers will support them through their own hardship funds. We also expect that HE providers will continue to support disadvantaged groups to participate in HE through the targets set out in their access and participation plans.

We have engaged closely with the Office for Students to enable providers to draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers will be able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for April and May, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment, and mental health support, as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.

Eligible students studying on full-time and part-time courses will continue to receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for the remainder of the current 2019/20 academic year.

Students with a part-time employment contract should speak to their employer about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19), which has been set up to help pay staff wages and keep people in employment.

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