Labour unveils ‘seven tests’ for pandemic crisis English HE policy

Shadow universities minister says tests will protect institutions and students affected by Covid-19 pandemic

July 23, 2020

Labour has called on ministers to adopt “seven key tests” to help UK universities and students recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

In its most detailed announcement on higher education since Sir Keir Starmer won the Labour leadership in April, Labour said it was vital that government policy should pass a series of “key tests for higher education” that would “create a comprehensive solution to ensure universities and students are safeguarded from the economic impact of this crisis.”

These tests include a previously-stated demand that “no university should be allowed to go bust” as a result of the pandemic, which is predicted to cost UK higher education as much as £2.6 billion in lost income and about 30,000 jobs.

Other proposed “tests” outlined in a letter by shadow universities minister Emma Hardy to education secretary Gavin Williamson, published on 23 July, would also encourage government policy to “reduce barriers to learning”, including tackling the continued fall in part-time students, to “protect and enhance domestic and international research” and “promote universities as civic institutions.”

There is also a call for the government to “enhance a cooperative and coordinated higher education sector across the whole of the UK”, which would include an acknowledgement that the government’s use of Longitudinal Educational Outcomes data focusing on graduate salaries “discriminates against some regions and presents a skewed picture of the true worth of those universities to their communities”.

On students, Labour also calls for the government to “prevent further financial hardship for current students”, explaining that “no student should get into further debt because of Covid-19”.

There is also a call for “comprehensive support for 2020 final year students”, citing a proposal that recent graduates should be given “six-month long paid internships at the national living wage which would allow graduates to gain invaluable experience.”

Ms Hardy said that the “proposals show support for every person who aspires to attend university and to protect the equality of opportunity for everyone in every region as part of Labour’s ‘7 Key Higher Education Tests’ campaign’.’

“By passing these 7 key tests the government will show commitment to our higher education sector, to our young people, and to our regional economies,” said Ms Hardy, adding that “meeting these tests will help guarantee a fairer society and allow aspiration to flourish”.

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