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MP warns coronavirus fall in students would put UEA in “great jeopardy”

PUBLISHED: 16:57 30 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:58 30 April 2020

South Norfolk MP Clive Lewis  has written to government ministers to ask for more Covid-19 help for Norwich higher education institutions including the UEA. Picture: Denise Bradley

South Norfolk MP Clive Lewis has written to government ministers to ask for more Covid-19 help for Norwich higher education institutions including the UEA. Picture: Denise Bradley

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The future of Norwich universities and higher education is in “great jeopardy” amid the coronavirus crisis, an MP has warned.

Students at University of East Anglia. Picture: SuppliedStudents at University of East Anglia. Picture: Supplied

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, has written to government ministers to ask for more Covid-19 help for Norwich higher education institutions including the University of East Anglia.

Universities across the UK have asked the government for a £2 billion bailout to save their research programmes, which are threatened by the loss of high tuition fees paid by overseas students.

Leading vice-chancellors estimate that universities are facing a loss of up to £7 billion in overseas fees if all international students stay away.

South Norfolk MP Clive Lewis says health of UEA and higher education important to city economy. Picture: UK Parliment OfficalSouth Norfolk MP Clive Lewis says health of UEA and higher education important to city economy. Picture: UK Parliment Offical

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The foreign students, who mostly come from China and India, often pay twice or three times the £9,250 a year paid by their UK counterparts.

The UEA is predicting a reduction of 50pc or more of overseas students for at least two to three years with the shortfall from accommodation income and course fees totalling as much as £30 million per annum.

Norwich University of the Arts and Norwich City College are less reliant on overseas students but still facing uncertainty over when they will reopen and the cancellation of exams.

University of East Anglia. Picture: SuppliedUniversity of East Anglia. Picture: Supplied

Mr Lewis said: “Unless the government takes substantial and decisive action very soon, they will put the future of UEA and our city’s other higher education in great jeopardy. Universities like UEA, which have significant numbers of international students, will be hit hardest by the falls in fee and grant income.

“But it’s not just the future of local higher education which is at stake here. Universities are vital anchor institutions in local economies. So when higher education gets sick, that virus spreads rapidly to jobs and businesses all over our city.”

MORE: Norwich University of the Arts to produce 1,000 PPE face shields a day

A British Council survey of 10,000 Chinese students with places to study at UK universities in September revealed that only 39pc said they were “very likely” to commence their studies as planned.

Almost 30pc of students from India – one of the UK’s largest sources of international students – had already cancelled their plans or were likely to do so.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, the representative organisation, said: “Government must take urgent action to provide the support which can ensure universities are able to weather these very serious challenges, and to protect students, maintain research, and retain our capacity to drive the recovery of the economy and communities.”

Mr Lewis added: “We will desperately need a healthy HE sector after Covid-19 has passed to generate a sustainable and robust recovery of our local economy.”


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