Higher Education: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 12th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the higher education sector concerning the next academic year, in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

The department engages regularly with representative bodies covering all types of higher education provider, encompassing all locations, as well as receiving representations in person and by correspondence from individual providers on a range of issues including the next academic year 2020-21.

The government announced a package of measures in May to protect students and the higher education sector from the impact of COVID-19. This has been discussed extensively with the sector, including through ministerial roundtables and letters. The package included a range of measures for next academic year. To ensure a fair, structured distribution of students across providers, temporary student number controls have been put in place for full-time, undergraduate domestic and EU students for academic year 2020/21 (with certain specific exemptions). The Government has also pulled forward tuition fee payments, expected to be worth £2.6 billion, for providers so that they receive more cash in the first term of academic year 2020/21. Through the proposals from the government and the sector, students will also benefit from a new proactive and personalised UCAS Clearing process this summer.

The government is working with higher education (HE) providers to make sure all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies to the best of their abilities this academic year and next.

Whilst recognising universities are autonomous institutions, we will shortly publish guidance to support them to make informed decisions on making university buildings and campuses accessible again, while minimising risks to students and staff

Furthermore, the HE sector is already working hard to prepare learning materials for the autumn term. This includes the government working with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, professional bodies and the Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator in England, to ensure students continue to leave university with qualifications that have real value. The OfS has published guidance for registered providers about how the OfS will approach the regulation of quality and standards during the COVID-19 outbreak. This guidance is clear that standards must be maintained - further details are available at https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-quality-and-standards-during-coronavirus-pandemic/. Actions that providers are taking now may continue to be required in the 2020- 21 academic year if the disruption as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak is prolonged.

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