MillionPlus has called for the government to invest in three key areas, in a policy statement released ahead of the chancellor’s summer statement tomorrow (Wed 8 July).
Boosting public services, investing in research and development, and growing regional economies should all be the focus of government attention and funds as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, says the association of modern universities.
In his mini-Budget, Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a range of measures to aid the country’s post-coronavirus economic recovery, ranging from temporary VAT cuts to increasing the number of traineeships for 16-24-year-olds.
Supporting public services
MillionPlus argues that, since the pandemic “has highlighted the importance of our key public services, particularly the need for a robust and resilient NHS” the government should strengthen and enhance education for the public services across England by:
- Financially supporting students and graduates to become key workers in public services, by offering maintenance grants of up to £10k, removing recruitment caps, investing in NHS training placements, and providing fee-loan forgiveness for those who remain public service key workers for at least five years
- Creating a fund allowing universities to invest in “simulation equipment and other important infrastructure”
- Increasing general staffing budgets and professional development opportunities for current public servants and the new NHS volunteer reserve
Investing in R&D
Investment in research and innovation, says MillionPlus, will “unlock the talent in small and medium-sized businesses across the country” and reflect the government’s commitment to ensuring the UK is a research and innovation superpower. The government should, therefore:
- Commit to investing at least 3% of GDP into research and development (R&D) in the 2020s
- Ensure the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund – established by the government in May to replace structural funding previously received from the EU – is in place by January 2021
Growing regional economies
Pointing out that modern universities are essential to a country’s economic strength, through their relationships with employers, MillionPlus also advises the Treasury to:
- Consider reform of the student loans system to allow students to access loans for shorter technical and professional courses and modules at Level 4 and Level 5 without an initial commitment to a degree
- Expand apprenticeship opportunities at all levels, keeping employers at the centre of policy
“By targeting attention and investment in these three key strategic areas the government can go a long way to enabling a swift recovery,” said MillionPlus chief executive Dr Greg Walker.
“The pandemic has been brought starkly home how vital our key public service workers are to the country – taking steps to ensure we boost capacity and provision to deal with the fallout of the crisis is essential.
“Investment in research and in those people looking to re-train and learn new skills in regional communities will be a shot in the arm to local economies and change lives for the better.
“The impact of Covid-19 will be profound and enduring. As a new normal begins to take shape, investment in these areas is an investment in our collective future.”