On 30th June Baroness Randerson asked Her Majesty’s Government “what support they are providing to universities to assist them in dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Rt Revd Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, asked a follow up question focusing on students preparing to enter into key public service roles.
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, universities make a significant contribution to their local communities and economies, particularly smaller institutions that attract a larger proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. These make a significant contribution to their local context, particularly in this pandemic. In particular, several Cathedrals Group universities during the 2018-19 academic year had 20% undergraduate students from low-participation—POLAR4—backgrounds. How will the Government work with higher education institutions to maintain the widening of access and retention of students, especially those preparing for key public service roles that have been so important during this pandemic crisis?
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay: The right reverend Prelate is absolutely right to point out the vital contribution made by smaller and specialist higher education providers; I know there are a number in his own diocese, as there are around the country. He is right too to point out the importance of encouraging people from all backgrounds to continue to go to university and to avail themselves of the benefits that it can bring. That is why I am pleased that higher education providers can draw on existing funding, which is worth around £23 million a month at the moment, to provide hardship funds and support for disadvantaged students who are particularly affected by Covid-19.