Coronavirus: Scottish Government asks Westminster for universities to be bailed out

SCOTTISH Government ministers have appealed to Westminster for financial support to be handed over to universities during the Covid-19 pandemic amid a pledge that Holyrood is “ready to stand by” institutions.

Earlier this month St Andrews University warned it faced a “hole in our financial position” of £25 million.

Scotland’s universities minister Richard Lochhead has warned that if Scottish universities saw a reduction in international student admissions of just 50 per cent, that could lead to a loss of around £400 million.

During a Holyrood virtual questions session, Mr Lockhead was quizzed by opposition MSPs on the financial outlook for Scotland’s universities.

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “There’s a very real risk that some (higher education) institutions may actually fail financially without intervention from the government.

“Is the Scottish Government ready to step in and make sure that  does not happen?”

Mr Lochhead confirmed that “the Scottish Government is ready to stand by universities”.

He said: “We are exploring every avenue we have available to us to support our universities to get through this and to avoid the potential scenario that you outlined.

“What I’m hearing back from universities is that they are being incredibly responsible – they are meeting this challenge as best they can. We still don’t know the scale of it.”

He added: “We do expect a drop in international students. We don’t know to what extent, but if it was up to a 50 per cent drop, for instance, that could cost our education sector £400 million of lost income.

“We are making representations to the UK Government that we do need a support package for Scotland’s universities and indeed further and higher education.”

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