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Universities: Finance

Question for Department for Education

UIN 85039, tabled on 4 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make it his policy under his Department's restructuring regime to enable (a) Buckinghamshire New University and (b) other financially strong higher education institutions to assist nearby institutions in financial difficulty; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

14 September 2020

The government recognises the value of the higher education sector and that a high level of uncertainty remains around the scale of problems that higher education providers, as a whole and individually, may face in the coming academic year. We have been working closely with the higher education sector, in the Higher Education Taskforce, as well as with the Office for Students (OfS) and across the government to understand the financial risks that providers are facing and to help providers to access the support on offer. Providers with concerns about their financial viability or sustainability have been encouraged to contact the OfS at the earliest opportunity. They can now also directly contact the department’s Restructuring Unit at:

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced further information about the Higher Education Restructuring Regime on 16 July and more details are available here:

This may be deployed as a last resort, if a decision has been made to support a provider in England, when other steps to preserve a provider’s viability and to mitigate the risks of financial failure have not proved sufficient. The overarching objectives that will guide the department’s assessment of cases will be to protect the welfare of current students, to preserve the sector’s internationally outstanding science base and to support the role that higher education providers play in regional and local economies through the provision of high-quality courses aligned with economic and societal needs.

We will consider providers’ circumstances on a case-by-case basis, supported by expert advice, to ensure there is a robust value-for-money case for intervention. In cases where an Independent Business Review is carried out, the resulting restructuring plan may include options for a merger as well as for consolidation and services sharing between providers. The department’s Restructuring Unit will work with the provider and other stakeholders to ensure that the best option forward is chosen to ensure that the overarching objectives, as mentioned previously, are met.

Regarding the circumstances of Buckinghamshire New University, the government does not comment on individual higher education providers.