New report reveals the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Sheffield universities

Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield could be hard hit financially by a predicted drop in student numbers due to coronavirus, a new report has revealed.

The University and College Union (UCU) has criticised a package of government support for the sector, after it warned of a £2.5 billion funding “black hole” caused by a collapse in student intake due to Covid-19.

Higher Education Statistics Agency data shows 82 per cent of Sheffield Hallam University’s revenue was from tuition fees in 2018-19 – equal to £233.7 million.

This was much higher than the average of 49 per cent across all institutions.

The University of Sheffield, Firth Court

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While 45 per cent of the University of Sheffield’s tuition fee income was from non-EU students in 2018-19 – equal to £149 million, and again, much higher than the average of 29 cent across all institutions.

UCU’s report, conducted by London Economics, predicts around 60 per cent of the predicted £2.5 billion loss for the 2020-21 academic year will come from a drop in numbers of these students, who can pay up to three times the £9,250 annual fees charged to those from the UK.

A further 25 per cent will be caused by a drop in domestic study, and the rest from a reduction in students from the EU.

UCU’s report predicts around 60 per cent of the predicted £2.5 billion loss for the 2020-21 academic year will come from a drop in numbers of non-EU students (PiC: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The study warns an estimated 62,000 jobs are at risk at universities and throughout the wider economy, with a potential cost to the country of more than £6 billion.

The Government has pledged to bring forward £2.6 billion in tuition fees that universities would have received later in the year, and £100m of research funding.

But providers will face a cap on the number of full-time undergraduate UK and EU students they can recruit for 2020-21 – set at an extra 5 per cent on top of the number they had already forecast they would admit – to prevent a race to the bottom among institutions looking to boost funding by swelling their ranks.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the sector needs “more than IOUs to solve the problems they face”.

She added: “The student number cap is a misnomer as it will enable the wealthiest universities to substantially grow their domestic student base at the expense of other more locally-focused institutions.

“We cannot afford to let this dog-eat-dog approach risk substantial damage both to our country’s academic capacity and local economies which universities are such an important part of.

“Instead of kicking the can down the road, the Government must underwrite funding lost from a fall in domestic and international student numbers and remove incentives for universities to compete against each other at a time when we need to be pulling together.”

The HESA figures show that 46 per cent of the University of Sheffield’s total revenue came from tuition fees in 2018-19 – although this was slightly below the national average.

Only 9 per cent of Sheffield Hallam University’s tuition fee income came from non-EU students in 2018-19, according to the figures – well below the average.

Universities UK president Julia Buckingham said the Government’s measures indicated a “welcome recognition” of the central role universities will play in the recovery of the economy and communities.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “We are committed to supporting our world-class universities and students through this unprecedented challenging time.

"So we are putting measures in place to help protect students and staff from the impact of coronavirus."

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