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Labour would 'rescue any university going bust'

1 month ago 14
StudentsImage copyright Getty Images

Labour says it would not allow any university in England to go bust.

There have been warnings of universities facing financial problems during the pandemic.

But Kate Green, shadow education secretary, says such "precious and valued assets" should not be allowed to fail.

The government last week announced plans for emergency loans, but has not guaranteed that all universities would be rescued.

Ms Green also attacked the government's rejection of Tony Blair's target from 1999 to get 50% of young people into higher education.

She said it was "astonishing" that an education secretary and a universities minister appeared to be calling for fewer people to go to university.

Earlier this month, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan criticised universities for "dumbing down" and said that "young people have been taken advantage of" by over-recruitment into low-quality courses.

"For decades we have been recruiting too many young people on to courses that do nothing to improve their life chances or help with their career goals," said the minister.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had said there were "limits to what we can achieve by sending ever more people into higher education, which is not always what the individual or the nation needs".

'Undermining'

The shadow education secretary criticised what she described as the "undermining rhetoric" towards universities.

In an online meeting with students, Ms Green and shadow universities minister Emma Hardy, argued that access to higher education should be widened rather than restricted.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption There have been warnings of the financial risks if many Chinese students cancel plans to study in the UK

Last week, the government announced plans to provide universities emergency support if they faced insolvency - with access to loans depending on agreeing to conditions, such as switching to more vocational courses.

It followed a warning from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that 13 unnamed universities were in financial difficulties, which could be even more serious if there was a reduction in overseas students because of the pandemic.

But Labour's education team promised to prevent the financial collapse of any university - saying that closure would be a disaster for local economies as well as for individual students.

Ms Hardy said it was important that universities were available to students in all parts of the country.

"No country has ever increased economic activity through reducing access to higher education," she said.

Students taking part in online questions raised concerns about getting refunds from universities on tuition fees for courses disrupted by the lockdown.

But the shadow ministers did not commit to saying universities should pay back fees - saying there had to be balance between a fair deal for students and the financial well-being of universities.

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