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Research: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN HL4216, tabled on 12 May 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of any (1) immediate, and (2) future estimated, decrease in income for universities from international students; what assessment they have made of the impact of any such decrease on universities' ability to maintain research capacity; and what plans they have to review the (a) timing, and (b) relevance, of the Research Excellence Framework.

Answered on

27 May 2020

In the 2018/19 academic year, tuition fees from international students at UK higher education providers accounted for around £6.9bn of sector income. The Government recognises that the COVID-19 outbreak will have an unparalleled impact on all elements of the global and UK economy. The higher education sector, including student recruitment, is no exception. We have been working closely with the sector to monitor the likely impacts of COVID-19, on international student numbers, including restrictions on travel.

We are working with the sector to assess the potential implications for university research sustainability. In order to support this, we have established a joint BEIS/DfE Ministerial Taskforce on University Research and Knowledge Exchange Sustainability to engage with university sector experts, Devolved Administration and research funders to identify and assess risks of impacts, and to consider approaches to help manage these. The aim is to sustain the university research base and its capability to contribute effectively to UK society and economy in the recovery and beyond.

The Research Excellence Framework is operated jointly by the 4 UK HE Funding Bodies, who have recently gathered views on the revised timings for the REF. The Funding Bodies intend to report on the outcome and next steps by the end of May. The role of the REF in identifying and supporting research excellence with impact remains fundamental to maintaining the quality and capability of the university research base and its contribution to UK economy and society.