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09/04/20 18:08

Supporting universities

Scottish Government committed to mitigating the effects of COVID-19.

Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney has reassured university representatives that the Scottish Government will do everything possible to ensure Scotland’s institutions remain world leaders and key drivers of the economy in the wake of the disruption around COVID-19.

At a meeting with Universities Scotland to discuss the range and scale of issues affecting universities in the current global health crisis, Mr Swinney acknowledged the vital work of the universities in the current crisis and the impact it was having on staff and students.  

He said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to work with the university sector, along with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), to assess the nature of the effects of COVID-19 on teaching, student issues and research.

“The scale of the financial challenges facing higher education institutions are clearly very serious and, in order to inform the development of a package of support from the Scottish and UK Governments, Ministers will work closely with the sector on how our universities can remain at the forefront of global education when we emerge from this crisis.

“Our Universities have worked tirelessly to address the serious implications of this situation on students and staff and I thank them for that. I also warmly welcome the efforts of academics, clinicians and researchers who are working exceptionally hard to understand the impact of COVID-19 and to identify the means to tackle its effects through testing and the development of appropriate treatments. We are very fortunate to benefit from the exceptional expertise of all of these individuals in our universities.”

Commenting on the meeting, Professor Andrea Nolan, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, said:

“We welcome the urgent attention the Scottish Government has given to understanding the range of financial challenges facing universities as a result of COVID-19. We won’t know the full financial impact on our universities for some time but it’s clear that it will be very significant and without a major financial intervention from the UK and Scottish Governments, the future of Scotland’s universities is at risk.

“Universities have acted quickly to protect their staff and students from the worst of this pandemic and they are a major player in the national effort to tackling the virus and supporting the NHS. Universities themselves will need financial support in the short-term and over the longer term to get through this and to get through this in a way that ensures they will be an essential part of Scotland’s recovery and success of our nation post-COVID-19. The Scottish Government’s commitment to work with us to scope the full extent of the challenge and design the right package of support is very welcome and will help assuage the concerns of our community of more than 250,000 students and staff.”

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council said:

“The Scottish Funding Council acted quickly to bring some much needed stability at a time of great uncertainty for students, staff and researchers, by agreeing funding allocations for the academic year 2020-21 and bringing forward funds to support students. We recognise the significant financial issues facing the sector and are working closely with universities, colleges and the Scottish Government to assess the impacts for individual institutions and the sector as a whole.”