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Students: Digital Technology

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL12256, tabled on 18 January 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to help universities provide digital technology to financially disadvantaged students.

Answered on

1 February 2021

My hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, and departmental officials are aware of the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic may have on some students. Officials are working with the sector to continue to monitor the situation.

The government’s expectations are very clear: universities should maintain the quality and quantity of tuition and seek to ensure that all students regardless of their background have the resources to study remotely. The Office of Students (OfS) has made it clear that all higher education providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards, which set out requirements to ensure that courses are high quality, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes, and that standards are protected.

Higher education providers must also continue to comply with their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, ensuring that education and learning is accessible to all students. When making changes to the delivery of their courses, providers need to consider how to support all students, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes.

The government has already worked closely with the OfS to help clarify that providers can draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students affected by the pandemic. Providers are able to use the funding, worth around £256 million for academic year 2020/21, towards student hardship funds, including the purchase of IT equipment. We are also currently making available up to £20 million of hardship funding to support those that need it most, particularly disadvantaged students.

The government has also invested over £400 million to help provide laptop computers and electronic tablets for disadvantaged children and young people so that they can access education and social care services remotely. As part of this, we have provided devices for care-leavers, including those who may be studying at university.