On April 23, the UK University and College Union (UCU) released a London Economics report signifying a decrease in new university applicants in 2020.
The UCU expects just over 230,000 fewer Freshers across UK campuses during the 2020/2021 period. There is a near 50-50 split between UK and non-UK applicants missing in comparison to previous years. Notably, this would lead to a £2.5bn “funding black hole”. Most of this lost money would be the result of lost international student fees – approximately $1.51bn in total.
UCU is calling for the government to intervene to save an estimated 30,000 university jobs which would be put in peril. 91 UK universities would be left in a “critical” financial state without assistance according to the UCU report.
In a statement, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:
“This alarming report shows that university staff and students are now staring over the edge of a cliff and desperately need the government to step in and protect the sector. The government’s own analysis puts universities most at risk of financial pain from the current crisis and this report does not take account of other income losses, such as accommodation or conferencing.
“Our world-renowned universities are doing crucial work now as we hunt for a vaccine and will be vital engines for our recovery both nationally and in towns and cities across the UK. It is vital that the government underwrites funding lost from the fall in student numbers. What students and staff really need at the moment is the government to stand behind their universities and for institutions to work cooperatively in the wider interest.“
Dr Gavin Conlon, a partner at London Economics, also spoke of the necessity of government intervention to protect students, universities, and research. In addition, the UCU submitted a proposal to the UK education secretary in early April outlining potentially viable solutions to the issue of reduced enrolment in the 2020 academic year.