Universities get extra money to cover drop in international student numbers

Universities will be able to access extra funds to help them deal with a drop in overseas student numbers.

Ministers have said grants and low-interest loans will become available to cover up to 80 per cent of income losses due to fewer international students enrolling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

University-led research will be protected through emergency finance schemes as higher education establishments deal with budget holes.

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Around £200m of the investment will be made immediately available to support researchers’ salaries and other costs, such as laboratory equipment and fieldwork.

Meanwhile, £280m will be handed out to enable scientific research into Covid-19 and antibiotic resistance to continue unabated.

The rest of the money will go to UK Research & Innovation to be redistributed among UK universities, the Department for Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.

Announcing the university support package on Saturday, Alok Sharma, the UK business secretary, said the money would provide a “lifeline” to struggling universities.

“The brilliance of our talented researchers and scientists has been absolutely critical not only to our medical response to coronavirus but also as we begin to emerge from this pandemic and support the UK’s economic recovery,” he said in a statement.

“The support we are putting in place will give our world-leading universities a lifeline by protecting jobs to ensure our best minds can continue discovering new innovations that will benefit us all for generations to come.”

The fiscal support is on top of the government’s decision last month to bring forward £100m of university research funding by a year to provide immediate stability for organisations.

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Universities minister Michelle Donelan added: “We understand the difficulties universities are facing right now, which is why we announced a range of measures last month to ease financial pressures, and now I am delighted we are able to offer universities further financial support to protect vital research.”

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said he believed universities could help drive the UK’s recovery from the pandemic..

He said: “This is a timely and welcome acknowledgement from the UK government of the importance of protecting and supporting research activities and talent as universities weather the financial storm created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

University research and innovation will play a key role in driving economic and social recovery and benefiting communities and places across the UK.”

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, representing 24 of the UK’s leading universities, said: “Research has never been more important than now to drive innovation and productivity as the UK deals with the post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

“The challenges we face dealing with pandemic, climate change and other major issues will only be addressed through many disciplines working together, so today’s announcements are good news for the country.”

Earlier this month, nearly three-quarters of British universities saw a drop in their place in the QS University World Rankings.

According to QS, the two factors contributing most to these declines are decreases in teaching capacity and research impact at British universities.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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