Published on 29 April 2020
The University of Sunderland is backing a national campaign urging the government to support and protect the education and training of future key workers.
It comes as Universities UK and MillionPlus – the Association for Modern Universities – outline a series of proposals aimed at protecting and sustaining university programmes which meet the national need for key workers.
The Covid-19 crisis has thrown a spotlight on the country’s vital key public service workers – particularly those in medicine, nursing, teaching, allied health professions, and social work. Such professions will be increasingly vital as the nation begins to heal in the months ahead.
The University of Sunderland currently has more than 3,000 students on health and wellbeing programmes, including Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Paramedicine, as well as over 2,300 in Education and hundreds more in Social Sciences.
Many of the University’s students and graduates are already playing key roles on the Covid-19 effort. The University has played a significant part in supporting NHS services in recent weeks, through both workers on the frontline and the donation of state-of-the-art equipment. Read about just some of the efforts here and here.
The current crisis is putting considerable pressure on universities and concern is growing that without further action, training capacity may well not meet future needs. Working with universities, the government could take a major stride towards mitigating against future capacity shortfalls via a three-pronged approach:
- Supporting students and graduates to become key workers in public services, by offering a maintenance grant of up to £10,000 for all students in training, removing any recruitment caps, and providing fee-loan forgiveness for those remaining in the relevant professions for at least five years.
- Strengthening and enhancing key public service higher education capacity in universities by increasing the funding to the Office for Students to reflect the added costs while creating a new Public Services in Higher Education Capital Fund to enable universities to invest in simulation equipment, additional staff costs and other infrastructure.
- Retaining and developing key workers in public services, by increasing general staffing budgets and creating a new professional development programme focused on enhancing skills of current key workers in public services and the new NHS volunteer reserve.
Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University, said: “We actively support these proposals as part of the national recovery effort following the pandemic.
“At the University of Sunderland, we are well-placed to nurture, deliver and fit the requirements for future key roles in the north-east of England and beyond. We already have thousands of students studying in health and education-related programmes and we want to protect, sustain and grow these to meet the demands of a post Covid-19 world.
“We also deliver a host of professions-facing programmes from business and technology to media and creative industries which will be vital in rebuilding to meet future requirements.”
Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University, added: “Our universities and their students are vital assets to the UK. Our world-leading hubs of teaching and research have stepped up to the plate during the coronavirus crisis, supplying equipment, know-how and front-line staff to hospitals all over the country.
“It is critically important that universities have the resources to train the next generation of workers in these key areas so that we can meet future needs.”