The UK government has announced £50 million in funding for students affected by the pandemic, including international students.
University Minister Michelle Donelan said this was “a very difficult and challenging time for students,” and the money was intended to “provide real, tangible help to those students who are struggling financially during the pandemic”. The extra £50 million will mean that the UK has already distributed £70m of scholarships in this financial year alone – in addition to the £256m of government-funded student premium that universities can use for student support this academic year.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students said that the money should be used to reimburse those who are unable to return to the places they rented, and to help students who are losing their money due to heavy layoffs at part-time jobs.
Led by Labor MP Paul Blomfield, the group also called for the establishment of a “rehabilitation fund” that will try to restore lost teaching and other learning experiences, such as field trips. This may include the introduction of summer programs by students to compensate for the lost teaching time. “This epidemic has cost us dearly, and students cannot be ignored,” Mr. Blomfield said.
However, a parliamentary group comprising of opposition parties has called on the government to create a £700 million student emergency fund, citing that £50 million is not enough.
The announcement comes after the Welsh government earmarked £40m for vulnerable students in January, and Scotland released a total of $30m that month. Northern Ireland began providing Covid-19 financial aid for students as early as May and June 2020.
The government has also confirmed that face-to-face teaching will not continue at UK universities until March 8. The revised guidelines state that plans to allow students to return to campus “should be postponed until March 8”. It has been further reiterated by the government that providers should not teach face-to-face until further guidelines are issued in this regard. The directive encourages students to stay in their community until their in-person teaching begins, where possible.
Several universities, including the London School of Economics (LSE), have already announced their intention to keep all online teaching until the end of the academic year.