Internet: Education

Department for Education written question – answered on 29 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, whether he plans to hold discussions with representatives from (a) Ofcom and (b) telecommunications providers on making educational websites free to access for university and college students during the covid-19 lockdown.

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

There are no plans to discuss with Ofcom or telecommunications providers making educational websites free to access for university and college students during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Due to the wide range of online educational resources used by the higher education (HE) and further education sectors, our focus has been on enabling universities and colleges to support provision of internet access to students which need it.

Colleges are able to provide Internet access to disadvantaged 16 to 19-year-old learners using their flexible bursary funding. We have ensured that they can apply for additional funding to do this if needed.

As part of the HE stabilisation package, the government has worked closely with the Office for Students to help clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding to provide hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. Providers are able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for April through to July, towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.

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