Higher Education: Coronavirus

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

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Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Government is taking to support the higher education sector in England during the covid-19 outbreak; and what consequential effect that support has on the Scottish higher education sector.

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

On 4 May 2020, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced a package of measures to protect students and higher education providers in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This package was designed to stabilise university finances, including tuition fee income resulting from admissions, and to support our world-class higher education system to continue to deliver for all students and the wider economy. Details of the package can be found at:


Furthermore, building on the stabilisation package and access to business support schemes, the government has also announced a further package of support to research within universities, including universities across Scotland. This includes £280 million of government funding as well as a package of low-interest loans with long pay-back periods, supplemented by a small amount of government grants. In sharing responsibility for the future of science and research with our world-leading university system, the government will cover up to 80% of a university’s income losses from international students for the academic year 2020/21, up to the value of their non-publicly funded research activity.

On 16 July, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced the higher education restructuring regime, of which details can be found at:


This will be deployed as a last resort, if a decision has been made to support a provider in England facing severe financial difficulties related to the COVID-19 outbreak, when other steps to preserve a provider’s viability and mitigate the risks of provider failure have not proved sufficient.

The UK government has invited ministers in the the Scottish government, the Welsh government and the Northern Ireland Executive to opt into the regime on behalf of higher education providers in their respective territories. Throughout the development of the higher education stabilisation package, we have shared our approach and thinking with the devolved administrations through regular engagement at a ministerial and official level.

There are several elements to the higher education stabilisation package which are applicable in Scotland, including temporary student number controls which apply to English-domiciled students studying at higher education providers in all devolved administrations; Clearing Plus, which applies to all UK higher education providers using UCAS; the International Education Strategy, including communications to prospective international students; and the Ministerial Taskforce on university research sustainability, which includes representation from the Scottish government. This is in addition to the UK-wide government support schemes such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CIBLS) and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter, so England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland each have their own education system. The UK government is responsible for England, whilst the Scottish government, the Welsh government and the Northern Ireland Executive are responsible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, respectively.

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