Universities: Finance

Department for Education written question – answered on 20th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Shadow Spokesperson (Further & Higher Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and International Trade)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the financial impact on UK universities of restrictions on travel from overseas students in the (1) current academic year, and (2) 2020/21 academic year.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

In the 2018/19 academic year, tuition fees from international students at UK higher education providers accounted for around £6.9 billion of sector income. The government recognises that the COVID-19 outbreak will have an unparalleled impact on all elements of the global and UK economy. The higher education sector, including student recruitment, is no exception. We have been working closely with the sector to monitor the likely impacts of COVID-19, on international student numbers, including restrictions on travel. We understand the coronavirus outbreak and a possible reduction in the number of international students poses significant challenges and stand ready to help the sector with various mitigations.

The government is working to ensure existing rules and regulations, including visa regulations, are as flexible as possible for international students under these unprecedented circumstances. Higher education providers will also be flexible in accommodating applicants’ circumstances where possible, including if they are unable to travel to the UK in time for the start of the academic year.

On 4 May, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced the package of measures to stabilise university admissions this autumn and ensure sustainability in higher education at a time of unprecedented uncertainty. My hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, wrote to all Honourable Members on 4 May, with full details of the package, which have also been published on GOV.UK: www.gov.uk/government/news/government-support-package-for-universities-and-students.

The new graduate route, due to be launched in summer 2021, provides an opportunity for international students who have been awarded their degree to stay and work in the UK at any skill level for two years. This represents a significant improvement in our offer to international students and will help ensure our world-leading higher education sector remains competitive internationally.

The International Education Strategy, published in March 2019, by the Department for Education and the Department for International Trade, set out a commitment to review progress following its publication.  The review  will  ensure the International Education Strategy responds to this new context and the challenges that are  posed.

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