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Further and Higher Education: End of Transition Period

Volume 687: debated on Monday 18 January 2021

What assessment he has made of the effect of the end of the transition period on (a) further and (b) higher education. (910834)

What assessment he has made of the effect of the end of the transition period on (a) further and (b) higher education. (910859)

We have worked with the sector on the steps it needed to take following the transition period. This included questions around participation in European Union programmes, migration and student support arrangements. We are replacing the European social fund via the UK shared prosperity fund and introducing the new Turing scheme.

Before Brexit, EU students contributed £1.2 billion to the UK economy annually, boosting the profile of UK universities globally and helping to support the pipeline of talented science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates and medical graduates. With the reality of excessively high international student fees, many EU students will choose to study elsewhere, so how will the Secretary of State ensure that the Turing scheme, a poor replacement for Erasmus, is as effective in encouraging inward student mobility?

The Turing scheme is not a poor replacement, but a brilliant replacement for Erasmus. It is about us looking around the globe as to how we can expand opportunities for students. Yes, there are many, many brilliant higher education student institutes right across Europe, but there are so many more right across the world, whether in the United States or Canada, whether in India or China or whether in Australia and so many other places. That is what we are going to be giving young people the opportunity to release, and they will have the opportunity to go and study there as well.

Under the Horizon 2020 programme, the UK consistently received more money out than it put in. Under the terms of this agreement, the UK is set to receive no more than it contributes. While universities in Scotland were relieved to see a commitment to Horizon Europe in the joint agreement, what additional funding will the Secretary of State make available to ensure that our overall level of research funding is maintained?

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Government have been very clear in our commitment to research. The Prime Minister has stated time and time again that our investment in research is absolutely there, ensuring that we deliver Britain as a global scientific superpower. That is why more money has been going into research, and universities will continue to play an incredibly important role in that, but as he will be aware, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy manages the research element that goes into the funding of universities.

The anxiety caused by the lack of answers on the impact of the end of transition upon students is only adding to the anxiety that they already feel because of the impact that covid-19 has had on their educational experience, their finances and their graduate job prospects, which is all made worse by the fact that students do not feel that their voice is being heard by Government. Perhaps the greatest injustice of them all, they feel, is being made to pay rent for accommodation that the Secretary of State has mandated they should not use. What is he going to do to right this wrong?

As the hon. Lady will know, before Christmas we set out plans to support youngsters who were going to be facing the greatest hardship. We continue to keep this under review, and we will continue to work with the sector to provide the best support to students up and down the land.