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Student Wastage: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 21219, tabled on 23 June 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 26 May 2021 to Question 2969, what steps he has taken to specifically target support to those students most at risk of dropping out of higher education during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

1 July 2021

This government is fully aware that this year has been very challenging for certain groups of students. We have put in place a range of mitigations to support them, so that they can continue with their studies successfully and achieve good outcomes.

We have made an additional £85 million of funding available for student hardship in the 2020/21 academic year. This is on top of the £256 million of government funded student premium funding already available to higher education (HE) providers to draw on. HE providers are able to use this flexibly to support those students who need it most. It can be used in a variety of ways including the purchase of IT equipment; mental health support and help for students that have already applied for hardship funding previously but need further support.

International students have also been able to request access to hardship funds through their provider and they can be confident that they can express these concerns without any impact on their immigration status.

We have worked with the Office for Students (OfS) to launch the online mental health platform Student Space, worth up to £3 million. This is in addition to the £15 million we have asked them to allocate to student mental health initiatives next year to address the challenges to student mental health posed by the transition to university. This will target those students in greatest need of such services, including vulnerable groups and hard to reach students.

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 when this is necessary. HE providers must 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 they support all students, particularly the most vulnerable, to achieve successful academic and professional outcomes. It is a registration requirement of the OfS that all HE providers have Access and Participation plans, and these are monitored to ensure that universities are acting on them.

Prior to 17 May, we advised the sector that certain groups of students should be able to return to their term time addresses, even if they were not receiving in-person teaching. These included students who did not have access to adequate study facilities and those whose mental health concerns made this necessary.