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Higher education policy priorities for the new prime minister


As an MP with a university in his constituency and a former shadow universities minister, our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson will know first-hand the crucial role universities play in skilling-up the workforce, cutting-edge research, and driving social mobility across all regions and nations of the UK. 

In his first speech on the steps of Downing Street, he made much of the contribution of universities and science to the enviable brand of the UK across the globe. In setting out his vision for his premiership, we of course heard a focus on delivering Brexit, but Mr Johnson also announced a wide-ranging domestic vision. Here are five ways that the prime minister can help maximise the role of universities for both his domestic and global ambitions:

  1. The prime minister can ensure that the UK remains a global leader in research and development (R&D), by first recommitting to investing 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027. He must also focus on creating an immigration system to secure the most talented researchers and make the UK their destination of choice.

  2. The prime minister has always been a champion of international students and ensuring the UK is an attractive destination for them, particularly by signing the recent amendment to the Immigration Bill which would introduce a two-year post-study work visa. We hope to see this ambition become government policy in the coming months. And for those talented people who want to work in the UK, the prime minister should lower the proposed salary requirement for international workers to gain a high-skilled work visa to £21,000.

  3. To fully realise a domestic vision that includes equality of opportunity, regional growth and a skilled workforce, Boris must secure long-term and sustainable funding for universities and students. Concerns around finance should be addressed by introducing maintenance grants for students who need them most, and cutting the interest rate on loans while students are at university. The prime minister can also help a generation better understand the student finance system by funding a national education programme on student finance so that students are fully informed of the funding options available to them before applying to university.

    In addition, the way we work, and study, needs to be flexible to meet the needs of individuals and the economy, and the government should work with universities, employers and further education providers to create more opportunities for flexible and lifelong learning. The prime minister is an advocate of apprenticeships so we hope he will support universities to deliver more degree apprenticeships

  4. The student experience at university is just as important as how their courses are funded. The next prime minister must allocate funding and support systems that commit to improving student mental health and wellbeing outcomes such as UUK's Stepchange framework, and back efforts to widen access and end the Black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment
    gap
    .
     
  5. And lastly, on the global stage we need the prime minister to do everything in his power to avoid a 'no-deal' exit from the EU. When Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson said on the Andrew Marr show and in a recent speech that the UK should continue to support Erasmus and Horizon – even if that means paying into them. This is encouraging, because committing to the Erasmus+ programme and assuring participation in Horizon Europe alongside an immigration system that focuses on collaboration and exchange between the UK and EU partners must be at the heart of the PM's negotiations. 

Universities are ready and willing to help make this vision a reality. 



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