Budget 2020: what does it mean for HE?

Chancellor announces £800m for UK’s answer to ARPA

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced his first budget.

He has announced:

  • Increasing investment in R&D to a record £22bn a year. As a percentage of GDP, it will be the highest in nearly forty years – higher than the US, China, France and Japan.
  • Funding will grow by 15% in the next year, the fastest year-on-year growth ever.
  • £800m for a specialist ‘blue sky’ research centre, the UK’s answer to the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • Improvement in regional distribution of research funding. There will be £450m incremental funding increase for universities around the UK
  • Secure legacy with £1.65bn for FE by end of next parliament
  • No VAT on books, journals, printed media and e-publications
  • The government has decided not to pursue additional sales of pre-2012 income-contingent student loans
  • £120m to bring further education and higher education providers in England together with employers to open up to eight new Institutes of Technology
  • Consultation on the new National Skills Fund to start in the spring

What has been the response?

University Business is awaiting the response from sector bodies. We will update this story when we receive them.

NUS president Zamzam Ibrahim said: “It is disappointing that despite significant increases in government expenditure the government has ignored some of the biggest needs for our students. Increasing funding for our further education sector is very necessary and to be welcomed but this still will not undo the cuts that the sector has seen since 2010. Some of the biggest issues that students face are in regards to their living costs. Students cannot wait until autumn and the government’s response to the Augar review for the reintroduction of maintenance grants and raising of household income threshold for student support – they need them now.

“The Chancellor has promised to extend statutory sick pay (SSP) but it must be acknowledged that this will not do much to help low-paid work and particularly our apprentices. Many students will not be eligible for SSP because they work part-time or are employed on casual contracts, yet they will struggle to make ends meet when their earnings decline as a result of COVID-19.

“Plans to increase the National Living Wage and reduce the age threshold to 21 by 2024 are positive and students will be watching these developments closely. While it is important that the government is taking fire safety seriously by establishing a more extensive building safety fund, the 18 metre threshold for high-rise buildings is completely arbitrary and puts the safety of many students at risk, as was demonstrated by the fire in The Cube in Bolton.

“We are glad to see the confirmed reintroduction of bursaries for nursing, midwifery and healthcare students but if the recruitment crisis in our NHS is to truly be solved students need to benefit from tuition fee exemptions, there needs to be some recompense for the ‘lost cohorts’ between 2017/18, 18/19 and 19/20 and confirmation that students will not have benefit entitlements changed if they receive the new bursary.

“Funding to improve the accessibility of train stations will be crucial for many disabled students and we would like to see this extended to cover more than just a dozen stations. Increases in the immigration health surcharge are completely unnecessary and fail to recognise the many financial contributions that international students already make to the UK economy. We are pleased that the government has committed to the cancelation of pre-2012 student loans, as we have been calling for, and would like to see them commit to not selling off post-2012 loans so that private companies will not gain from the debts of students.”

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