The government recognises that the COVID-19 outbreak will have an unparalleled impact on all elements of the global and UK economy. The higher education (HE) sector, including student recruitment, is no exception. We understand that a possible reduction in international student numbers poses significant challenges but stand ready to help the sector with various mitigations.
The UK’s world-leading universities remain open to international students and we are working as a priority to make processes as flexible as possible to allow them to study at UK institutions in 2020-21. The UK’s new International Education Champion, Sir Steve Smith, will assist with opening up export growth opportunities for the whole UK education sector, which will include attracting international students to UK universities.
The government is committed to continuing to improve our offer to international students, which is why we have announced the new graduate route, to be introduced in summer 2021. The graduate route will be simple and light-touch and will permit graduates at undergraduate and masters level to remain in the UK for 2 years and PhD graduates to remain in the UK for 3 years after they have finished their studies and to work or look for work at any skill level - a significant improvement in our offer.
On 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. We are pulling forward an estimated £2.6 billion worth of forecast tuition fee payments to ease cashflow pressure this autumn and are bringing forward quality-related research funding for HE providers in England in the current academic year by £100 million. Full details of the package have been published on GOV.UK: www.gov.uk/government/news/government-support-package-for-universities-and-students.
On 27 June, the government announced a further package of support to research-active universities. This includes £280 million of government funding and a package of low-interest loans with long pay-back periods supplemented by a small amount of government grants, which will be available from autumn. 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.
The government has confirmed that HE providers in England are eligible to apply for its support packages, including business loan support schemes. The Office for Students estimates that these schemes could be worth at least £700 million to the sector.
In such instances, we will work with providers to review their circumstances and assess the need for restructuring and any attached conditions. We will only intervene further where we believe there is a case to do so and where we believe that intervention is possible and appropriate and as a last resort. The department will be working with HM Treasury and other government departments, and with the devolved administrations, to develop this restructuring regime.