23 Nov 2020
Ahead of the Spending Review on 25 November, MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, today (23 November) calls on the government to support public services and invest in infrastructure so the country can build back better from the coronavirus crisis.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of our key public services, particularly the need for a robust and resilient NHS. As such, the government should use the Spending Review to strengthen and enhance education for the public services across England.
The government can create resilient public services by supporting students and graduates to become key workers. By offering a maintenance grant of up to £10k for all students, investing in the NHS, social work and teacher-training placements, and providing fee-loan forgiveness for those remaining in relevant professions for at least five years, the government can secure the foundations of strong, robust, sustainable public services.
Higher education plays a vital role in a country's economic success, fuelling innovation and knowledge exchange and providing a highly skilled workforce to enable regional growth. Modern universities have pioneered working with employers to develop innovative higher and degree apprenticeships that combine the very best of work and learning.
The government should continue with its already announced plans to increase loan flexibility for higher education students. It should commit to reforming the student loans system in England to rocket boost re-training and up-skilling opportunities. By allowing individuals to access loans for shorter courses and modules at Level 4 and Level 5 without an initial commitment to a degree, the government can inspire innovation and unlock unmet demand for these courses that provide employees with the technical and professional skills employers need to grow their businesses and help the country build back better.
The government should also commit to investing 3% of GDP in research and development and ensure that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is in place by January 2021 to act as a vehicle for investment in regional and rural communities across the UK.
Dr Greg Walker, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said:
“Covid-19 has brought home very starkly how much the country relies on its backbone key service workers, particularly across the NHS. The government can take strides towards guaranteeing a robust and resilient future by targeting investment that encourages and supports students and graduates to train and retain the key workers Britain desperately needs.
“The goal to build back better can only be secured by reforming the student loan system in England, making it flexible enough to support those looking to re-skill and re-train in a post-pandemic landscape by studying for short, modular courses.
“MillionPlus has long called for more ambitious investment in R&D, and committing to invest 3% of GDP would put us on a similar footing to other countries. At the same time, urgent clarity is needed on the implementation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, due to replace European Structural funds that have benefitted rural and regional communities to the tune of billions of pounds.”