To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that overseas students can continue to study in the UK during the covid-19 outbreak in the 2020-21 academic year; and what steps his Department is taking to ensure that funding for universities is maintained.
The UK’s world-leading universities remain open to international students and we are working as a priority to make processes as flexible and easy as possible to allow students to study at UK institutions in the 2020-21 academic year.
On 22 June, with my counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, I wrote to prospective international students to outline the support and guidance that is available to students who are considering studying in the UK from the autumn. In the letter, I reiterate the temporary and targeted flexibilities that the government has announced for international students including, amongst other mitigations, confirmation that distance learning or blended learning will be permitted for the 2020/21 academic year provided that international students’ sponsors intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as circumstances allow.
We are also in discussions with Universities UK and other sector representatives on a regular basis to ensure that we are united in welcoming international students to the UK. We expect international students - particularly those who will be subject to the 14-day self-isolation period - to be appropriately supported upon arrival by their chosen university during these unprecedented times. International students who are considering studying at a UK higher education (HE) provider from September 2020 should contact their chosen university to find out how they are adapting to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Monday 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 HE at a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Full details of the package have been published on GOV.UK: www.gov.uk/government/news/government-support-package-for-universities-and-students.
The government has also confirmed that HE providers in England are eligible to apply for its support packages, including business loan support schemes. The Office for Students (OfS), the regulator in England, estimates that these schemes could be worth at least £700 million to the sector.
We will only intervene further where we believe there is a case to do so and where we believe intervention is possible and appropriate and as a last resort. In such instances, we will work with providers to review their circumstances and assess the need for restructuring and any attached conditions. The department will be working with HM Treasury and other government departments, as well as with the devolved administrations, to develop this restructuring regime.