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Scotland announces £75m to protect universities from Covid-19

But Scottish ministers say more support is needed from the central UK government

The Scottish government has announced a £75 million funding package for Scotland’s universities to help protect their research during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The intervention aims to “help secure the jobs and training needed to support ongoing and future research work”, the Scottish government said on 6 May.

The funding will be administered by the Scottish Funding Council.

According to recent analysis from the SFC, Scottish universities face a loss of about £72m due to Covid-19 this academic year, with a collective operating deficit of between £384m and £651m forecast for the next academic year.

“We are taking a partnership approach, talking to the universities and staff unions, as we build up our response,” said deputy first minister John Swinney. “Now we need the UK government to join those efforts. So far, their main interventions have been focused on the HE sector south of the border.”

His comments come as Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s minister for higher education and science, has written to the UK minister of state for universities, Michelle Donelan, calling for a pan-UK investment and support package for higher education.

Donelan told the House of Commons on 6 May that the £100m in quality related research funding that is being brought forward to this year only applies to universities in England.

Swinney said: “We need the UK government to take a UK approach and join with Scottish universities and the Scottish government to build a support package that will protect the sector from the impact of this virus.”

Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland, said the £75m funding announcement was “very welcome”.

“Universities are exposed to the financial impact of the pandemic across a number of fronts,” she said. “There is still a very considerable financial challenge to address in regard to loss of international tuition fee income.”

“This will need a bespoke solution, and will need the support of both governments, otherwise it risks directly and adversely affecting the education that universities can offer Scottish students and the tens of thousands of high value jobs within the sector.”