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First minister urged to join calls for UK government to fund education

12 June 2020

Universities desperately need a clear and coherent plan from the UK government if we are to avoid losing educational capacity at a time when it will be needed most, UCU told the first minister today.

In a letter to Nicola Sturgeon to launch the union's 'Fund The Future' campaign, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the Westminster government's limited actions so far had failed to meet the challenges higher education face and called on the First Minister to join the call for additional support.

The union said the UK government needed to provide financial guarantees to stop thousands of teachers, researchers and professional support staff losing their jobs at a time when education would be needed to drive the recovery from the pandemic.

As well as writing to Nicola Sturgeon and the prime minister, the union is urging its members and the public to use a new campaign websiteto contact their local MP to make the case for more funding and support. UCU has also launched a new campaign video today and the union's general secretary Jo Grady is hosting a live Facebook Q&A event at 1pm.

A report for UCU by London Economics in April warned that universities faced a £2.5bn funding black hole across the UK due to lost income from student tuition fees and teaching grants. The report warned that, without government intervention, the country faced a total shortfall of £6bn from the reduced economic activity generated by universities with 60,000 jobs at risk.

A poll released last week showed that students shared the union's concerns about what the impact of Covid-19 might mean for universities and education. Almost a quarter (23%) of the prospective students polled were worried their university might go bust as a result of the crisis and half (49%) feared their education would suffer as a result of cuts linked to Covid-19.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Universities are a crucial part of the economic and social fabric of the UK and should be central to our recovery from the damage done by the Covid-19 crisis. The government's limited actions so far have not come close to meeting the challenges further and higher education face.

'Universities have already started cutting jobs and will keep trying to do so as the uncertainty persists, with huge repercussions for industrial relations and local economies that depend on higher education.

'We now desperately need a clear and coherent plan from the government that guarantees funding and jobs to protect our academic capacity. The country cannot afford to push tens of thousands of teachers, researchers, and education professionals into unemployment at a time when we will need education to be a key driver of recovery.

'Our "Fund The Future" campaign will demonstrate the importance of education and make the case for investment in our universities to politicians across the political divide. We have to ensure that education is given the support it needs to lead our recovery from this crisis.'

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