UK government urged to put universities at heart of Covid economic recovery

Research highlights how industry supports more than 815,000 jobs

The government is being urged to support research efforts at institutions such as the University of Oxford. AFP
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The UK government is being urged to ensure England’s universities play a central role in the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Universities UK, which describes itself as the collective voice of 140 higher education institutions in the country, said the sector contributed £95 billion ($128.35bn) to the economy and supported more than 815,000 jobs.

Ahead of its three-year spending review next month, the government was told it should ensure sustainable funding for universities, maintain the UK’s position as a research leader and support students from disadvantaged and mature backgrounds.

That was according to UUK’s submission to the government before the spending review, which was aided by new research from consultancy Frontier Economics.

“Universities have been celebrated for being front and centre in the fight against coronavirus, but it is also important to recognise the livelihoods they support through creating and supporting jobs and businesses across the country,” said Prof Steve West, president of Universities UK and vice chancellor of UWE Bristol.

“The economic and cultural contribution of our universities is vast and benefits communities across all parts of the UK. Universities can be central to speeding up the UK’s recovery from the pandemic.”

According to UUK, about 191,000 nurses, 84,000 medical specialists and 188,000 teachers could train at UK universities over the next five years.

It also highlighted the economic impact that universities had outside London, including the jobs supported in the north-east (32,000) and the south-west (85,000).

“Now is the time for government to capitalise on the strength of our world-class universities, working with us to ensure universities have the right funding environment to drive economic growth, create new jobs and improve opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds,” Prof West said.

Updated: September 29, 2021, 9:46 AM