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Government Unwilling to Bailout Universities

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

Hopes for long-term help from the government in England have been dashed, with pleas for a university bailout apparently 'landing badly' with the Treasury.

Instead, £2.6bn in tuition fees will be paid early and ministers pledged to allow institutions to charge full fees even if courses are to be taught online.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said they could continue to charge the full £9,250 annual fee for undergraduates whilst campuses remained closed and face-to-face learning was suspended, as long as high standards of teaching were maintained.

She said: "We have already seen, over the last few months, courses being delivered online and virtually to an amazing degree of quality, and I know the efforts made across the sector to facilitate that."

"We've always said that we don't believe students would be entitled to reimbursement for tuition fees if the quality is there."

Additionally, the proposed measures could result in a cap in the number of British and EU students that each university can enrol in the next academic year.

With a drop in international student fees potentially costing billions of pounds, the Department for Education (DfE) is working to show Britain remained open for business.

However, the support offered so far has amounted to little more than IOUs according to the University and College Union (UCU). Jo Grady, the union's general secretary said: "Instead of kicking the can down the road, the government must underwrite funding lost from a fall in domestic and international student numbers and remove incentives for universities to compete against each other at a time when we need to be pulling together."

Although the £2.6bn advance has been welcomed, it does not offset the huge loss of income due to the reduction in international students.

Under the student cap, each institution would be limited to the number of domestic undergraduate places it had forecast to the Office for Students, plus an extra 5%.

Further problems could be created for the industry if a survey by the Sutton Trust is accurate, which suggests 19% of UK applicants will change their plans to go on to higher education in the autumn.