Catch-up with the latest news and insights on education in the UK.


Indian students on course for UK universities despite lockdown disruption
Jul 2020

    • The UCAS, the coordinator of a centralised application process for British universities, found a 32.9% rise in applications from India this year
    • Overall, UCAS found that more under-graduate applicants have accepted an offer to immediately start studying at university or college compared to last year

    Indian students remain on course to take up their courses at UK universities from later this year, according to figures released in London on Thursday which found a 32.9 per cent rise in applications from India in 2020 over the previous year.

    The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) analysis found that amid an overall spike in university applications for the year, most applicants were holding a firm offer to start a course from the autumn semester – which begins towards the end of September – despite the uncertainty around the coronavirus lockdown.

    The UCAS, the coordinator of a centralised application process for British universities, found a 32.9 per cent rise in applications from India this year over 2019, to hit a record 6,230.


    “It is really encouraging to see from UCAS that an increased number of international students are holding a firm offer for a UK university this year," said Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK International, which represents 143 leading British universities.

    “It’s great news that more international students continue to choose a high quality UK education. UK universities are here to support Indian students and are ready to welcome them to start their UK studies with as little disruption as possible this year," she said.

    The UCAS figures reveal there were a total 568,330 applicants as of the January 15 deadline, up 1.2 per cent on 2019.

    A record 73,080 applicants are from outside the European Union (EU), 14.7 per cent more than 2019 – driven by increases in applicants from China (33.8 per cent) and India (32.9 per cent).


    “The growth in applicants from outside the EU is largely driven by significant proportional increases in the number of applicants from China, India, and Hong Kong, who have the largest numbers of applicants through UCAS," it notes.

    Overall, UCAS found that more under-graduate applicants have accepted an offer to immediately start studying at university or college compared to last year.

    “Students have made their decisions and are ready to take up the life-changing opportunities that higher education can bring," said UCAS Chief Executive Clare Marchant.

    “The numbers will also be welcome news for universities and colleges, and show their announcements on the blend of online and face-to-face learning most are planning to deliver have been building confidence ahead of the start of term. We are publishing these headline offer-acceptance statistics for the first time, to provide the clearest possible picture of students’ behaviour at this moment in the application cycle," she said.


    “Although admissions processes and modes of teaching might look slightly different this year, the UK’s world-class universities are continuing to recruit international students and you are encouraged to apply even if you are unable to travel to the UK to meet usual timelines," notes the letter.

    The letter was signed by UK Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan, Minister for Exports Graham Stuart, Northern Ireland Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds, Welsh Minister of Education Kirsty Williams and Scotland Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science Richard Lochhead.

    “Universities will be flexible in accommodating your circumstances where possible, including if you are unable to travel to the UK in time for the start of the academic year," it adds.


    The UK Home Office said the Graduate Visa route, commonly referred to as a post-study work visa and designed for overseas students to be able to work or look for work for two years after completing their course, will apply to the 2020-21 intake as long as they are physically present in the UK by April 2021 to complete the final semester.

Universities and colleges in Wales to get £50m help
Jul 2020

Universities and colleges in Wales are to receive a £50m support package to soften the impact of coronavirus.

The Welsh Government fund aims to safeguard teaching and research as well as helping students.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the institutions would play an "important role" in Wales' recovery from the pandemic.

However the National Union of Students (NUS) said it "falls short" of helping students facing financial hardship.

Of the money, £27m will be provided to higher education institutions with £23m to support students in further education colleges and sixth forms.

Ms Williams said the full impact of the pandemic on universities would not be known until the new term in September.

"This funding will provide a vital support to our institutions in their preparations for the autumn," she added.

"Each one will be important in our recovery as they work with schools, business, international partners and public services.

"So we are supporting these major institutions in Welsh life, so they can support students of all ages, and keep playing their part in our recovery."

The latest UCAS figures showed an increase in applications to Welsh universities from 18-year-olds, the Welsh Government said.

However there are concerns many students may defer to the following year while international students may also be put off studying abroad due to coronavirus.

So the Higher Education Investment and Recovery Fund for Wales aims to help maintain jobs in teaching, research and student services, invest in economic recovery and support students suffering financial hardship.

More than £15m will be provided for learners beginning their A-level or vocational course at an FE college or sixth form, to increase support following the closure of schools and help with their transition to post-16 learning.

The funding will be provided for all full-time learners between 16 and 19 years of age and represents a 5% increase to funding-per-student, the Welsh Government said.

Up to £5m will be provided to support vocational learners to return to college to complete licence-to-practice qualifications, without needing to re-sit the full year.

An extra £3.2m will be used to provide digital equipment such as laptops for FE students.

An additional £466,000 will be provided to support students undertaking Independent Living Skills programmes, to enable them to complete their transition from college into employment and independence.

UK:Students back at uni - but with masks and no bars
Jul 2020

The first students are beginning to return for face-to-face teaching on UK university campuses - with a new term of compulsory masks and closed bars.

Most students won't begin until the autumn, but veterinary students are now back at the University of Nottingham.

They are the pioneers for how campuses across the UK could look as they reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown.

"The social experience will be more limited, but these are unprecedented times," says registrar Paul Greatrix.

The first cohort going back in Nottingham are 150 trainee vets, some of whom will see a great deal of each other - as the university adopts the "bubble" system in which small groups will live as well as study together.

The university is calling it "households" rather than "bubbles", but it is the same principle of restricting the spread of infection by keeping people in small groups which are kept separate from each other.

Within these households of three to 10 students there will be no need for social distancing or wearing masks, but where different households meet the students will have to stay apart.

"Safety has to be the priority," says Dr Greatrix.

  • Students might have to stay in protective bubbles
  • Students face full fees for courses taught online
  • Chinese students want reassurance on Covid safety

The buildings are mapped out with one-way systems and hand sanitising stations and masks have to be worn, including in lessons, by staff and students.

Lectures will be online and there will be in-person teaching for small groups, which is essential for a practical subject such as veterinary science.

The student bars are closed and there are posters up for a pizza night that's going to be an online event.

"We can't emulate an all-night club experience through a Zoom chat," says Dr Greatrix.

But he says the university is doing everything it can to create a sense of involvement.

The students at Nottingham just seem very glad to be back and seeing friends, after months of being cooped up at home and having to study online.

They don't seem particularly daunted by the safety restrictions or that much of the socialising will be online.

"We were desperate to come back," says Amy Thornton. "It will be different, but it was time to come back."

She will be living in a bubble with five other trainee vets - and isn't worried about the new arrangements or seeing too much of a small number of people.

"It's just nice to see people again," says Emily Howell. "We're going to have to get on with it."

The online lectures are useful, she says, because you can rewind them. "But I can't wait to do practicals."

Her flatmate, Lewis Ashman, says he has no concerns about any risks from going on to the campus. "It's safe," he says.

Tom, getting his first chance to hold a snake and a bearded dragon called Barbie, says it's "great to be back".

The students don't mind the masks, but they're finding that dogs used in training don't like them - and it can set them off barking.

It's also a relief to be back teaching in person rather than online, says clinical assistant professor, Sarah Cripps.

Universities didn't close, but went online - and the pandemic has shown the limitations of remote teaching, and how much is missed when students and teachers are not there together in person.

And in the case of a practical subject such as learning to be a vet, which is all about handling, it's impossible to switch completely online.

Dr Greatrix says reopening for the rest of Nottingham's 40,000 students and staff will be one of the biggest projects the university has ever faced.

There will be staggered arrival times in September to reduce contacts between students, in what is like a small town turning up.

And there are plans if there are further Covid-19 outbreaks, either in halls of residence or in parts of the city where students are living.

There is a strong message of reassurance about safety - not least to overseas students, particularly from China, who have been doubtful of how well the pandemic has been handled in the UK.

Dr Greatrix says he will be pleased if more than 50% of overseas students turn up as planned - with many universities fearing a financial hit from cancellations.

Universities can introduce safety rules, but students are adults and he recognises there is no way of preventing people in separate bubbles from meeting away from the university - such as going to a local pub.

And it's not possible to put the same safety controls on students living in private accommodation.

"We'll try to regularly remind students about a sense of responsibility," said Dr Greatrix.

Easy way to go abroad for medical education .. Wales arrangement
Jul 2020

If you qualify for the extension in 2019 or later you can study medicine abroad too at a very low fee! Students often dream that they should have a well-paying job, be it an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, a chartered accountant or many other such professions. However, those who choose science at +2 dream of pursuing a medical degree (MBBS) as their first choice. NEET is a common entrance test for students wishing to enroll in medical school.The competition is between millions of students for the lowest number of seats. There is competition among students to get a place in some of the reputed medical colleges in the country. This is possible only if you are in the top 4000-5000 rankings in the NEET exam. In the southern part of India, students from the state of Tamil Nadu are among those who have failed the NEET exam. But students from neighboring states have performed better than us.The proportion of those who qualify for the NEET and the low number of medical places in the country also shatter students ’medical dream. The Welsh Group and its educational institutions in Chennai, Bangalore and Telangana have set up a Pre-Med program on its Chennai campus, which allows students to go to the Philippines to study Doctor of Medicine. Companies in the Philippines have the facilities to provide good infrastructure, teaching and quality medical education.There are many Indian students who have studied medical degrees abroad. However, none of these are directly promoted in Tamil Nadu by companies in the Philippines. Similarly, many students abroad study in institutions that are inferior and lack infrastructure. It is in this context that the Wales Group offers the opportunity to study in hospital institutions abroad, most explicitly and honestly.Students and parents are now breathing a big sigh of relief at this opportunity in Wales. The tuition fees abroad are also cheaper compared to the private medical colleges in our country and the student can learn different culture and customs. The future of students joining the Pre-Med program run by the Wales Group in Chennai is assured. This is the first time the project has been brought up by such a renowned academic group. This allows you to travel to the Philippines to pursue a four-year MD (Doctor of Medicine) course. The final year medical course will be taught directly at the hospital here.Low fees, safe environments and an American education system with good infrastructure facilities will be a good plus point for students who want to pursue a medical degree on foreign soil. Studying mainly in the Philippines will be of great benefit. Educational institutions / medical colleges in the Philippines are also licensed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Philippine Department of Health and Higher Education (CHED). Taking advantage of this rare opportunity in Wales will help fulfill your children’s dream.


UK:Surge in demand for tech courses and training as economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic continues to bite
Jul 2020

Searches for tech courses and remote learning have increased in the UK by over 40% on average as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bite. 

With the latest employment figures showing that 649,000 fewer people in the UK were employed in June compared with March when lockdown began, Ironhack has looked at a range of Google searches for tech-based learning to highlight how many people are looking to upskill or career change into tech roles. The results show a significant rise in searches when compared with 2019, with UI/UX the most in demand skills on the list, increasing by a huge 62% and 56% respectively:

Tech training and skills search increases (based on searches for courses and training): 

  1. User interface (UI): +62%
  2. User experience (UX): +56%
  3. Data analytics: +37%
  4. Software engineer: +36%
  5. Web developer: +27%

Recent data from Tech Nation highlighted that, pre-Covid-19, the tech sector was growing six times faster than the rest of the economy and predictions suggest that by 2030, 50% of the UK economy will be digital, tech and creative industries. With over 13,000 technology jobs posted on in the past fortnight alone, many people are now looking to enter the sector with the relevant skillset as their next career move. 

With the furlough scheme in the UK due to end in October, many workers currently benefitting will be worried about one of the most unstable employment scenarios in recent history as job losses continue to mount. Amidst this uncertain economic backdrop, Ironhack and Landing.Jobs scholarship programme has been devised to help people transition into a career in tech and combat unemployment with €300,000 in scholarships on offer. 

The scholarships will cover full or partial tuition for Ironhack bootcamps in Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona and their remote programs. No previous experience is necessary, interested applicants simply need to fill out an online form and take a short technical test. Applications are open now and close on Tuesday 28th July. 

Álvaro Rojas, Head of Remote at Ironhack commented: 

“Both Ironhack and Landing.Jobs have been playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of work in our communities. We have a shared belief that the tech ecosystem will provide the best employment opportunities moving forward. We have created our new scholarship programme to support career changers and those looking to upskill with the very best training available.  

When you consider the current employment landscape and look at the experiences of those who have graduated with us, there really is no better time to become a web-developer, UX/UI designer or data analyst. Our scholarships are designed to enable people to change their lives and transition into a career they love.” 

COVID-19 vaccine: UK signs deal for 90 million doses
Jul 2020

The UK government has signed deals for access to around 90 million doses of promising coronavirus vaccines under development, Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced here on Monday.

The senior Indian-origin Cabinet minister said the government has agreed significant partnerships with leading pharmaceutical and vaccine companies BioNTech/Pfizer and Valneva that are developing vaccines to protect people against the deadly coronavirus.

"The hunt to find a vaccine is a truly global endeavour and we are doing everything we can to ensure the British public get access to a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible," Sharma said.

"This new partnership with some of the world's foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk," he said. The minister called on the British public to play their part in vaccine research through the new National Health Service (NHS) vaccine research register.

"By signing up and participating in important clinical studies, together we can speed up the search for a vaccine and end the pandemic sooner," he said. As part of a number of pacts, the UK government says it has now secured access to three different types of COVID-19 vaccines that are being developed here and around the world, giving Britain the most likely chance of getting access to a safe and effective vaccine at the "quickest speed".

It has also secured access to treatments containing COVID-19 neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca to protect those who cannot receive vaccines, such as cancer and immunocompromised patients.

As a result of these partnerships, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could have access to enough doses to vaccinate and protect priority groups identified, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased health risk, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said. Alongside, the new vaccine registry website will allow members of the public to register their interest and be contacted to participate in clinical studies. To enable large-scale vaccine studies to take place across the UK, the aim is to get 5,00,000 people signed up by October, which is considered vital in the fight against coronavirus. Clinical studies with hundreds of thousands of volunteers will help scientists and researchers better understand the effectiveness of each vaccine candidate and will considerably speed up efforts to discover a safe and workable vaccine, BEIS said. The UK government is also working with ZOE, the health science company using data driven research and behind the popular symptom study app and site, to look at collaborating around vaccine studies and to help their volunteers hear about how to sign up to the NHS registry. "A safe and effective vaccine is our best hope of defeating coronavirus and returning to life as normal," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

"We have some of our best scientists and researchers working on this, but members of the public have a vital role to play too. So I urge everyone who can to back the national effort and sign up to the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry to help find a vaccine as soon as possible," he said. The latest set of pacts follow an existing global licensing agreement signed with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to research, develop and manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine for the UK. AstraZeneca will work to produce 100 million doses for the UK in total for the vaccine which has shown some promising results in human trials. Through its new partnership with Valneva, which has a factory in Livingston, Scotland, the UK government is expected to contribute to UK clinical studies costs and is negotiating funding to expand Valneva's Scottish facility. This increased manufacturing capacity could potentially supply up to 100 million vaccine doses to the UK and internationally. Kate Bingham, Chair of the UK's Vaccine Taskforce said: "The Vaccine Taskforce is investing in a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates to maximise the chances of finding a vaccine quickly that meets the UK's rigorous regulatory and safety standards. "The fact that we have so many promising candidates already shows the unprecedented pace at which we are moving. But I urge against being complacent or over optimistic. The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms." "Now that there are several promising vaccines on the horizon, we need to call again on the generosity of the public to help find out which potential vaccines are the most effective," added Professor Chris Whitty, the UK government's Chief Medical Officer. As part of a wider 131 million pound investment by the government, support has been given to the Oxford University's vaccine project as well as one by Imperial College London, which started human studies in June. The three different vaccine classes that the UK government has secured to date include adenoviral vaccines (Oxford University and AstraZeneca), mRNA vaccines (Imperial College London and BioNTech/Pfizer) and inactivated whole virus vaccines (Valneva).

Universities Minister speech at Festival of Higher Education
Jul 2020

Minister Donelan addresses the fifth Festival of Higher Education hosted by The University of Buckingham

Good morning, I am delighted by this opportunity to speak at this celebration of higher education.

We have so much to celebrate, especially now. Over the last few months we have seen our HE sector really step up and innovate in the face of adversity. Putting students’ wellbeing at the heart of their plans and acting quickly with innovative solutions to support learning.

In fact we have seen some fantastic examples including in practical and creative subjects. I was very impressed for example by my virtual visit of the Royal College of Music especially the staff and student feedback.

Whilst The University of Essex created a virtual residency for a theatre director, sending Virtual Reality headsets to students (some as far away as Singapore) to allow them to watch her production as if they were in the theatre.

Where as Petroleum Geoscience masters students at Imperial College, replaced their cancelled trip to the Pyreenees with a simulated overseas field trip, carrying out a regimented schedule of virtual field work. The field trip took place in an entirely new format in what is thought to be a first in a UK university setting at masters level. In fact, there have been so many fantastic examples of innovation across the board

I have also highlighted before the sterling effort Universities have made in the community fight back against Covid 19 from making and donating PPE to offering up equipment and accommodation.

And we certainly should celebrate that our world class scientists and researchers at the University of Oxford are at the forefront of vaccine development

I want you to know that I understand how hard this time has been for both University leaders and staff. This period has been hard for everyone but having to make such fundamental changes in course delivery almost overnight has been no mean feat!

Nor has it been easy to ensure students have all the support they need – but you have risen to the challenge. And I understand that financial uncertainty has added to those pressures. Which is why we announced our 4th May stabilisation package, the university research support package in June, and why we announced extra support in the form of the Restructuring Regime.

In doing so, we will be acting to support students, to protect our world-class research base and in recognition of the critical role that universities play in their local regions and economies.

Today I thought I would share a little about my journey. I entered politics to create opportunities and unlock potential. I was the first in my family to go to university. So, I know directly the power of university to open up opportunities and to transform lives.

However, we must always keep in mind that it is not the only path. As I have said before, there should be no one size fits all policy - for some FE will support their goals more or an apprenticeship will catapult their ambitions whilst for others HE will be transformative.

Let us however remember that we should rightly be proud of our Universities. Our Universities do play an instrumental role in their local communities and regions and with 4 of the world’s top 10 universities we are leading the way in terms of academic knowledge and research.

I have seen the power of opportunities and I was blessed to be granted them myself. I also know what it is like for doors to shut and my mission is to enable them to open for those with the grades to unlock them.

Now is the time for a new era in which our world leading sector will go from strength to strength. One with a focus on the individual, on skills, on rigorous academic standards and on outcomes to fill our productivity gap, fuel our economy and create opportunities.

I must say that I was delighted the Office for Students took firm action in early July to stamp out conditional unconditional offers. The registration condition is of course only temporary – but I want to see the practice ending for good. Because again I don’t want to see students making decisions that are not in their best interests. There is no justification for such practices.

Of course, this was only on a minority of courses. And I want to stress this point and it is exactly why we continue to be world leading: the majority of students get a good outcome from their studies and gaining real benefit from their degree.

We all know, and I certainly do, our academics want what’s best for their students. Our attention to student wellbeing as well as learning is one of the reasons why we attract students from around the globe. We have seen that very clearly over recent months, when time and again our higher education sector has stepped forward to play a vital role in the response to COVID-19, whether that is moving courses online or enhancing their support for the disadvantaged.

I also want to celebrate the fantastic reputation that our higher education sector has internationally. It is quite right that the UK is increasingly a destination of choice for top students from across the world. And I am determined to build on that and have thrown my full support behind the sector. In fact, in recognition of the impact COVID-19 is having on international students, I have made the case across Government to ensure we are as flexible as we can be.

These flexibilities include enabling international students to complete blended learning for the upcoming academic year. We have also confirmed that undergraduate and master’s graduates, will benefit from two years of leave in the UK to work, or look for work, under the new, globally competitive, Graduate route, when it is introduced in Summer 2021. And on 1st July we announced that PhD graduates will benefit from three years of leave.

I am also delighted to have announced Sir Steve Smith as the new International Education Champion, delivering on a key action in Government’s 2019 International Education Strategy. Sir Steve will assist with opening up opportunities and tackling challenges to attract international students, support export growth and make new global connections.

I want to do two things in the remainder of my time here today. Firstly, I want to continue to make clear the passionate importance I place on achieving genuine social mobility. And secondly how I believe now is the time to build on the recent innovations that universities have been developing.

I truly believe we need to focus on genuine social mobility. True social mobility is when we put students and their needs and career ambitions first – be that in higher education, further education or apprenticeships.

University was always my dream and it transformed my career options – and I want this option to be open to all those qualified by ability and attainment. Ethnicity, parental affluence or where a student is from should not be a barrier or even a factor.

Nuffield foundation research shows that high ability disadvantaged students are less likely to attend the most selective courses than more advantaged peers with similar grades. We must ensure that all those who have the ability, attainment and desire to pursue higher education are given high quality options that will lead to the good graduate jobs that will transform their lives.

But we need to remember that the focus isn’t just about getting young people to university, but about making sure they are on good quality courses that lead to graduate jobs.

To take an example, black children are more likely to go to higher education than white children. By age 19,59.9% have entered from black ethnic groups, compared to 38.2% from white ethnic groups .

But they are less likely to progress through their course, obtain upper class degrees, and go on to get a graduate job.

Only 85% of undergraduate entrants in England in 2017/18 from black ethnic groups had continued in higher education a year later, compared with 91% of white entrants.

Only 60% of qualifiers in 2018/19 from black ethnic groups obtained a 2:1 or above in their degree, compared with 82% of white qualifiers .

Only 69% of graduates in 2016/17 from black ethnic groups were in highly skilled employment or higher further study six months after graduating, compared with 74% of white graduates .

So it’s too simplistic to just look at the numbers of a group going to university. True social mobility is not getting them to the door, it’s getting them to the finish line of a high quality course that will lead them to a graduate job.

And as I’ve said before, that’s why I want to see universities doing even more to raise standards and aspiration in schools. That can be sponsoring schools, supporting a robust curriculum, running summer camps, or appointing student ambassadors to act as role models: universities have the potential here to make a tremendous difference in opening up opportunities.

And while I’m thrilled by the number who are already doing so, I’d like even more high tariff universities to be coming forward to open maths schools.

There are plenty of outstanding organisations that support the sector to support disadvantaged students to achieve. For example, Generating Genius, equips students with STEM knowledge and skills, to support talented students from BAME backgrounds to secure places at top universities and in top businesses. Another excellent example is Zero Gravity, a digital platform which connects state school students from low income backgrounds with undergraduate mentors. The mentors support those students in their journey to highly selective universities by encouraging them and helping them through the university application process. And although it launched only a month ago, thousands of undergraduate mentors have already signed up.

And we can get there because as have such a dynamic, innovative and student-focused HE sector here in the UK.

This is a festival of higher education, and I celebrate the fact we have some of the best universities in the world. We are an international leader for research and development.

I have no hesitation in praising the dedication of higher education teaching and research staff across all four nations of the United Kingdom.

They have responded to the challenges of COVID with astonishing innovation. I’m inspired by some of the initiatives I’ve seen to support mental health, such as universities offering additional student check-in services, where staff have volunteered to provide direct support to students. Others have enhanced their feedback and online wellbeing services.

Now is the time for the sector to build on these innovations. This event is hosted by Buckingham, the home of the two-year degree, I also want the sector to think more about how it delivers learning differently. Sadly, the three-year bachelor’s degree has increasingly become the predominant mode of study. But that doesn’t suit all students. Many young people would like to earn while they learn.

This fits into my wider message here today – that now is the time to innovate. If COVID has taught us one thing in reference to the HE sector it is how flexible it is – lets utilise this flexibility. Now is the time to build on the recent innovation we have seen.

With degree apprenticeships that meet employer demand, accelerated degrees, more emphasis on part time learning that links with labour market needs and skills gaps, building on online offerings designed during COVID and also more provision at Levels 4 and 5 offering Higher Technical Education or apprenticeships.

The economy and labour market needs have dramatically changed over the last few decades and it is now the norm for people to have multiple careers. Now is the time and the opportunity for the HE sector to upscale its flexible offering to support upskilling and reskilling.

I want to look at how we can support our universities to become more flexible to this – and more accessible. And rest assured, I want to support you in this mission.

One thing that I’m determined to look at is how we can do more as a Government to enable universities to offer more modular provision.

We know this can be tremendously desirable to adult learners looking to upskill, and it is likely to be more important than ever as the economy recovers from coronavirus.

I will work with you to make this happen because now is the time – the time for innovation and change – change that will safeguard our universities’ world leading reputation, continue to raise the quality bar and also feed our economy to tackle our productivity gap and most importantly create opportunities.

So to conclude, our universities have so much to offer this country. They play a critical role in transforming the lives of students, in producing outstanding scientific research and in their local economies and communities. All this is why I care deeply about higher education.

I will continue to champion the sector - Whether that’s making sure that the UK is a welcoming and readily accessible destination for international students, or extolling the virtues of our high quality courses. Now really is the time for true social mobility and innovation.

Restructuring regime for higher education providers announced
Jul 2020

In response to the UK government’s higher education restructuring scheme, announced today (16 Jul), Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“This announcement is further recognition of the severe financial challenges facing UK universities as a result of Covid-19 and the need to support institutions as they continue to play an important role in the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery, and we continue to speak with policy makers on how best they can support the sector. However, we would encourage government to be more ambitious, to go beyond a small number of universities in financial need, and to use this as an opportunity to help universities to undertake innovative changes to maximise their contributions to the economy and meet the needs of students and employers. UUK set out details for a broader transformation fund to ensure high-quality provision of skills to meet economic needs earlier this year.

“We are seeking further clarification about the scheme’s accessibility to universities in all four nations, the process of applying to the restructuring regime and what conditions might be attached to any support offered.”

In UUK’s financial stability paper, we proposed a transformation fund to support universities over the next two to three years to reshape and consolidate through federations and partnerships or potentially merge with other higher education institutions, further education colleges or private providers. This transformation fund would support some universities to significantly change to achieve longer-term sustainability (not just short-term stability) and ensure high quality provision of skills to meet economic needs.

This document outlines the higher education restructuring regime for higher education providers in England who are at risk of insolvency as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The scheme will review providers’ circumstances and assess the case for restructuring support, including last resort financial support, through repayable loans. Any support will come with strict conditions and must be aligned with the government’s wider priorities.

Investing in education and accelerating action on the SDGs
Jul 2020

Statement by Baroness Sugg at the UN High Level Political Forum event on accelerating action on the SDGs

Thank you for inviting me to speak today at this important event. In these challenging times, it is especially crucial that we maintain and strengthen our efforts on the Sustainable Development Goals. I look forward to hearing the new Accelerated Actions that will be presented today by others.

This time last year, the UK presented our first Voluntary National Review outlining our progress across all the SDGs, areas of further work, and next steps. Two months later, at the SDG Summit at UNGA, we underscored our commitment by submitting eleven SDG Accelerated Actions that covered both our domestic and international efforts. These ranged from our commitment to legislate to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 to launching a £600 million programme to provide reproductive health supplies for 20 million women until 2025.

Today, I wanted, in my role as the UK’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, to focus in on the education commitments we made, and to update this group on some of the work the UK has been leading in this critical area over the last year. Now more than ever, if we are to achieve the SDGs and recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic, standing up for the right of every girl in the world to 12 years of quality education is more important than ever. If we are to truly Build Back Better then we must see real progress on SDG 4 – so the children of the world have hope for the future and the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

At UNGA last year, the UK Prime Minister, underlining his personal commitment, announced £515 million of UK aid to support over 12 million children – half of them girls – in school. This package included: a) setting up a new £215 million education quality programme in Africa, including analysing which measures increase the proportion of girls making the transition from primary school to secondary school; and b) investing £300 million in the new International Finance Facility for Education - helping to unlock an additional $5 billion of financial support to education projects in lower-middle income countries, with girls and the most marginalised children at the heart of the facility’s work and investments.

I am delighted to say the mobilisation of this first programme is on track, and it is expected to launch in early next year. The programme will work with communities to ensure girls remain in school and successfully transition to secondary education.

Similarly, firm progress has been made on the International Finance Facility for Education - IFFEd - which I am pleased to say will be hosted in London. We strongly encourage others to join us and the Netherlands in supporting this innovative and cost-effective new financing instrument. Prior to COVID-19, 60% of the world’s out-of-school girls lived in the countries eligible for IFFEd’s support; by multiplying the impact of donor contributions, IFFEd can make a real difference to the lives of many more girls than would otherwise be possible. More broadly, girls’ education has been placed even more at the forefront of the UK’s global development offer over the last year, recognising both the power of educating girls in its own right and its potential for unlocking progress against all the SDGs.

We were already facing a global learning crisis when, as we know all too well, the COVID-19 pandemic hit with devastating effects. 1.3 billion children – 650 million girls – have been out of primary and secondary education at the peak of school closures. The impact, both short and long-term, risks being hardest felt by the most marginalised, and by women and girls, including the potential for what has been called a ‘shadow pandemic’ of gender-based violence. Across the board, we risk losing recent hard-won progress made towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.

Now more than ever it is not only right but essential that we collectively champion and accelerate our efforts on education, recognising it is one of the best investments for reducing poverty and achieving all the SDGs. The intergenerational impact of educating girls can lead to healthier, fairer and safer societies, build prosperity and tackle climate change.

To this end, in the last three months, the UK have adapted and reprioritised our education programmes in 18 countries to support education systems and keep pupils safe during the pandemic. We have also provided an uplift in funding to the DFID/World Bank Education Technology hub to expand its help-desk facility for education ministries at this crucial time. At a global level we have committed additional funding of £20 million to UNICEF for child protection, and an additional £5 million grant to Education Cannot Wait, to keep the most vulnerable children in 26 countries safe and learning.

Collective effort is essential. This is why the UK is strongly supporting efforts, including the UNICEF Opening Up Better campaign, to ensure all children - including 650 million girls - get back to school when it is safe to do so. The needs of the most vulnerable children must be at the heart of this process. We encourage others, at all levels, to join these efforts.

We are also thinking about the longer term. We need both to build our education systems back better and to place girls’ education, and gender equality, at the heart of the global recovery after COVID-19.

As Governments all around the world face budgetary pressure, we must all work to ensure that education spend continues to be a priority. We need more financing for education, not less. Institutions like the International Finance Facility for Education can help, and I encourage all to support it.

We will not achieve the SDGs and leave no one behind if we don’t get SDG 4 back on track and address the wider impacts of school closures - we know from the West Africa Ebola epidemic these can include sexual exploitation, child marriage and increased poverty. The UK commits to continue being at the vanguard of these efforts.

I hope I have provided a snapshot of UK activity and commitment, and set out the case for accelerate action on SDG 4 and girls’ education. I ask that you share this prioritisation and passion, including by supporting the UNICEF-led Opening Up Better campaign, IFFEd and other initiatives and by putting education front and centre of your own COVID-19 and recovery efforts.

Of course, we need to make sustained and enhanced progress against all the SDGs, and I am proud of the work the UK is doing across the spectrum - on an agenda which we championed so strongly when the goals and principle of leave no one behind were agreed five years ago. I look forward to hearing your plans and commitments, and understanding where the UK can support and learn from these endeavours.

Universities UK response to government’s support package for UK research jobs
Jul 2020

​The UK government has announced a support package to give greater job protection for researchers, scientists and technicians working at UK universities during coronavirus (Covid-19).

Responding to the announcement, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK and a member of the Ministerial University Research and Knowledge Exchange Sustainability Taskforce, 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 benefitting communities and places across the UK.

"We are committed to working with government on the fuller details of this package of loans and grants to ensure that they provide accessible support for university research and innovation across all four nations of the UK."

Major overhaul of higher technical education announced
Jul 2020

New package of measures for higher technical education will build on the work to transform technical and vocational education in Britain

Measures to boost the quality and take-up of higher technical education to help plug skill gaps, level up opportunities and support the UK’s economic recovery have been announced by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson today (14 July).

A major review last year revealed that higher technical education – technical qualifications like Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas that sit between A Level and degrees – can unlock the skills employers need and lead to highly skilled, well paid jobs. Despite this, not enough people are studying them which is leading to skills shortages in sectors like construction, manufacturing and digital.

The package of measures announced today marks the next step in establishing a system of higher technical education where students and employers can have confidence in high-quality courses that provide the skills they need to succeed. The package includes:

  • Introducing newly approved higher technical qualifications from September 2022 supported by a government-backed brand and quality mark – qualifications will only be approved where they provide the skills employers need, providing much needed clarity for students and employers.

  • Working with Ofsted and the Office for Students to make sure the quality of courses is consistently high across HE and FE institutions – building on our Institutes of Technology so students and employers can be confident courses will be high quality.

  • Launching a new public awareness campaign – working in partnership with employers and careers advisers to showcase the benefits and the wide range of opportunities that studying a higher technical qualification can open up and making sure students get the right information, advice and guidance to make informed choices.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

For too long we have been training people for the jobs of yesterday instead of the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Employers are struggling to find the computer programmers, engineers, electricians and technicians they need, and students of all ages are missing out on the high skill, high wage jobs that higher technical education can lead to.

The measures I have announced today will boost the quality and take-up of these qualifications to help plug skill gaps, level up opportunities and support our economic recovery.

Matthew Percival, CBI People and Skills Director, said:

Higher technical qualifications help people develop the skills that build careers. It’s fantastic to see this commitment from Government to boost their uptake.

Putting employers in the driving seat will give them confidence that courses on offer meet their needs.

With four-fifths of employers expecting to increase higher skilled roles in the coming years, offering clear progression routes through higher technical qualifications will be essential to creating a sustainable and inclusive future economy.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, chair of the Independent Panel on Technical Education, said:

At the present time there is a serious mismatch between the skills and knowledge delivered by our education system and the needs of our economy and society (34% of graduates are in non-graduate jobs, and industry faces a persistent shortage of technical skills). This announcement of a major reform of higher technical education, together with the introduction of T Levels, should go a long way to ending this mismatch and should be strongly supported by all political parties and industry.

Today’s announcement follows the Education Secretary’s FE speech where Gavin Williamson pledged to publish a White Paper that will set out our plans to build a world-class, German-style further education system in Britain, which will strive toward high quality qualifications based on employer-led standards. It also follows the significant investment announced by the Chancellor to support young people’s employment prospects – which includes a new ‘kickstart’ scheme to create work placements for young people on Universal Credit, £111 million investment to triple the number of traineeships available across England, supporting employers to create more apprenticeships opportunities, new investment to support an additional quarter of a million people with careers advice, and more.

These reforms build on work already underway to transform technical and vocational education in this country, including the introduction of new T Levels from September, working with employers to create more high–quality apprenticeship opportunities and establishing a network of Institutes of Technology, backed by up to £290 million. Higher technical qualifications will provide a natural progression route for young people taking new T Levels from 2020 or A Levels, and adults looking to upskill or retrain, enabling them to take the next step up and gain higher technical skills in key subjects like STEM.

Higher technical courses are offered at universities and FE colleges– such as Nottingham Trent University and New College Durham– and National Colleges, like the National College for Digital Skills, are well placed to expand in this area. The Government’s network of Institutes of Technology – unique collaborations between universities, FE colleges, and leading employers – also specialise in delivering high-quality higher technical education and training in STEM subjects, such as digital, advanced manufacturing and engineering that will provide employers with the skilled workforce they need.

The measure announced today will complement the Government’s review of post-18 education to ensure the system is joined up, accessible and encourages the development of the skills the country needs.

UK Report Calls For 4-Year Post-Study Visas To Attract More Indian Students
Jul 2020

Under the current rules, the UK is set to open up a new "Graduate" visa route, commonly referred to as a post-study visa, for the 2020-21 intake to UK universities.

London: A new report released in London on Monday has called on the UK government to double its post-study visa offer to four years, a move it predicts could lead to a near doubling of Indian students choosing UK universities by 2024.

"Universities Open to the World: How to put the bounce back in Global Britain", prepared by former UK Universities Minister Jo Johnson for the Policy Institute at King's College London and the Harvard Kennedy School, warns that an anticipated 50-75 per cent drop in international students as a result of the coronavirus pandemic would expose "real vulnerabilities" in the country's higher education sector.

An expansion of the ability to work at the end of a degree course and to include Indians in the low-risk student visa category of countries, akin to China, would prove particularly attractive to Indian students - a group which has registered a strong hike in numbers choosing UK universities in recent months.

"For students in India, this offer would be a total game changer. It would be sensational for the ability of our universities to go and market British higher education in India," said Jo Johnson, the younger brother of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"The increase that I am proposing to the post-study work visa will be of particular appeal to students from India, who are very sensitive to whether or not they have an ability to stay on in the country after they graduate to put to use the skills they have acquired in higher education and earn a bit of money to help them pay the pretty considerable fees that our universities charge them," he said, adding that the UK prime minister has always been a "strong supporter" of international students and is therefore likely to take the report's proposals into consideration.

The former member of parliament from the Conservative Party, who resigned from politics last year, has been a long-term supporter of competitive post-study visa offers to keep the UK in line with other higher education destinations such as Australia and Canada.