Universities face ‘crunch time’ due to Brexit and pandemic

Some institutions faced insolvency last year, the report from the Scottish Affairs Committee adds.

Universities face ‘crunch time’ due to Brexit and pandemic Getty Images

Scottish universities face a “crunch time” as they deal with the impact of Brexit and coronavirus, a committee of MPs has said.

The Scottish Affairs Committee said some universities faced the “real prospect” of insolvency in mid-2020 before both the UK and Scottish governments stepped in to help.

The MPs said the Turing Scheme, which is replacing the Erasmus scheme for student exchanges, should be expanded to fund international students coming to the UK.

A report from the cross-party group also notes there has been a 40% drop in EU students in the 2021-22 academic year.

Following Brexit, EU students now pay international student fees and the report said the drop is not as large as some in the sector feared.

The report recommends greater collaboration and engagement to help higher education deal with the new challenges.

It also urged the Scottish Government to consider whether further funding is needed for student mental health services.

Committee chairman Pete Wishart said: “This is a crunch time for Scottish universities and improved collaboration and engagement on reserved issues is the key to ensuring the wellbeing of our university sector.

“The reputation of Scottish universities and the research they conduct is nothing short of world class.

“But they face challenges made more difficult by Brexit and coronavirus.

“Getting the policies impacting them right will help them through this rough patch and strengthen the foundations of higher education and research.”

The report also recommends reducing the cost of the Global Talent visa to attract international academics.

Wishart added: “The UK Government’s ambitions to make the UK a ‘science superpower’ will be boosted by creating a friendlier climate for students and researchers from abroad.

“They offer new ideas, new ways of thinking and enhance the cultural experience at our universities.

“To demand they pay more than 10 times as much cash as our competitors to relocate is self-defeating.

“If we are serious about maintaining competitiveness, the UK Government should introduce a new scholarship for EU staff and students, reduced visa fees, stick to its commitments on research spending and expand the Turing exchange scheme.”

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