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What will the new academic year look like for Universities?

Posted on 20/08/2020 by Samantha Johnston

Graduation cap

It is fair to say that 2020 has caused a significant impact to every aspect of our economy, and the higher education sector is no different! The recent headlines on the A-Level results u-turn, the pressure of the pandemic on institutions, and with many universities announcing a freeze on recruitment, it is understandable to feel uncertain about what the new academic year will look like. 

What will student numbers look like for the new academic year?

When universities make an offer, which is conditional on grade achievement, they are contractually obliged to accept those students who meet the conditions. However, with the recent u-turn in A-Level results this has left many universities at capacity and struggling to meet the increased demand. Universities have called on the government for additional support to meet demand. This includes lifting the cap on places for some additional subject areas such as medicine. 

British students pay a maximum of £9250 per annum, which the government has announced will be paid regardless of whether courses will be taught online. International students often pay more, and this accounts for a large percentage of income for universities, particularly within the Russell Group. A study by IDP Connect, which works in global marketing for students surveyed nearly 6,900 international students and found that 69% of them were not changing their plans. However, many countries don’t recognise online learning in the same way that the UK does, and this may pose concerns for international student volumes if online learning continues to be the new norm. Of those who indicated changing their plans, 42% are picking a new country destination for their studies. The UK faces increased competition from other countries this year, including Australia (up 167%), India (up 53%), Germany (up 53%), and South Korea (up 52%).

How will the student experience be affected?

A recent survey by Universities UK found that:

  • 78 (87%) of universities are planning to provide in-person sporting, fitness, and wellbeing activities for students in autumn 2020. 
  • The full range of student support will be on offer at UK universities – including mental health support; careers advice; study skills. 87 universities (95%) will deliver this using a mixture of online and in-person services and 5 universities (5%) are planning to deliver these services online. 
  • Universities across the UK are consulting with staff and students as they develop their plans. 
  • 83 (90%) of universities have communicated their current plans to prospective and current students; others will be doing so imminently.
  • 75 (82%) of universities are working with bars and cafes in the local community as they develop their plans. 

Source: Universities UK

How will universities income be affected?

COVID-19 has affected income for universities with a significant loss from summer school programmes, accommodation, events, and catering sales over the summer period. The decline of international students would affect income and could lead to a drop of £463m in spending on tuition and living expenses.

There has been a call from universities for a £2bn bailout, which has been rejected by the government. However, they have agreed to bring forward £100m in research funding and £2.6bn of tuition fee income.

The Treasury has also announced £700m for businesses disrupted by the coronavirus where universities can apply.

For more information on how TPP can support your university during this time, please get in touch at samantha.johnston@tpp.co.uk or 02071986090. We are also providing free resources and specialist events which you can find on our resource hub here.