Scots universities warn they face £500m losses

University of Glasgow

Scotland’s universities warned on Monday they are facing £500 million of losses next year “based on a scenario which sees a 50% drop in international students coming to Scottish institutions.”

In a statement, Universities Scotland responded to the UK Government’s announcement of a package of support measures for UK universities and students designed to respond to the unprecedented circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Whilst further clarity is needed on some of the details of the package from a devolved perspective, today’s announcement is unlikely to deliver financial support on the scale needed,” said Universities Scotland.

“The future of Scotland’s universities will be dependent on a combination of the UK Government’s willingness to act in the interests of all UK universities and on Scottish Government action to support universities as a major asset in Scotland’s fight against the pandemic and social, cultural and economic recovery from it.

“Universities Scotland has been clear that the scale of the financial challenge facing Scotland’s universities as a result of the pandemic requires a response from both Governments.

“Scotland’s universities face losses of at least £78 million in the current year and losses of c.£500 million in 2020/21 based on conservative estimates.

“Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions are largely devolved but remain part of the UK’s higher education ecosystem with some significant sources of funding reserved to Westminster.”

Professor Andrea Nolan, Convener of Universities Scotland, said: “Scotland’s universities are going to depend on both Scottish and UK Governments agreeing a shared approach to ensure that appropriate financial support is targeted at a level that will help them navigate this crisis and be fit to support both Scotland and the UK’s post-pandemic recovery.

“Scottish higher education is mostly devolved but with a very active role in the UK’s higher education ecosystem.

“It puts Scotland’s universities in a very different place to universities in England and that necessitates a bespoke, twin-track response, crafted to acknowledge and respect that difference.

“We’ve had assurances from both Governments that they recognise this and will reflect it in their approach.

“While today’s announcement concentrates on immediate measures to protect students’ interests in England, we support its acknowledgement of the need for the UK Government and the devolved administrations to work together to protect higher education’s contribution across the UK.

“The proposed Research Sustainability Taskforce can help with this, and we welcome devolved participation.

“Beyond that, we need a partnership approach from the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure the right support reaches Scotland’s universities.

“Scotland’s universities are taking all the steps they can to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 and are exploring the appropriate use of existing Government support schemes.

“However, our higher education sector is very exposed to the impact of COVID-19 because of the extent to which funding structures have necessitated a reliance on international tuition fee income.

“Financial support from both Governments, over and above the existing UK schemes and ‘re-profiling’ of grant, will be necessary to ensure the quality of education delivered to a generation, protect jobs and the sector’s sustained contribution to the common good.”