Struggling universities must tackle ‘cancel culture’ and ‘demonstrate commitment to free speech’ to be handed emergency loans, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says
- Struggling universities must meet specific criteria to qualify for emergency loan
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said they must commit to free speech
- Universities must ensure student union funding caters to all students’s needs
Universities at risk of going bust which are hoping to benefit from cash support from the government must demonstrate their commitment to free speech in order to be considered.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced yesterday that institutions which are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic will be able to apply for emergency loans as part of the Higher Education Restructuring Regime to keep them afloat.
But in order to qualify for the new package of loans they must ‘demonstrate their commitment to academic freedom and free speech’.
In recent years, universities have seen a rise in ‘cancel culture’, including a no-platforming incident involving Amber Rudd at Oxford University in March.
The UN Women Oxford UK society sparked fury after its committee axed the former Home Secretary’s talk with just 30 minutes’ notice following outcry from students about her role in the Windrush scandal.
In his announcement yesterday the Education Secretary, who has previously spoken out against ‘cancel culture’ and how Rudd was treated, said money given to the student unions should not be used for ‘subsidising niche activism and campaigns’ and instead to ensure it caters to the needs of the wider student population.
The Department of Education also warned universities and colleges in England will only be considered if they ‘deliver high quality courses with strong graduate outcomes’.
Struggling universities will also have to reduce the level of bureaucracy and vice-chancellors will have to take a pay cut.
Each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis after all other possible avenues of income have been exhausted.
While the government is offering this money where applicable, it stated there is no guarantee that no organisations will go into insolvency.
Williamson said: ‘We understand the challenges universities are facing, which is why we have already provided a range of support to ease financial pressures. This new scheme will help those who are still facing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19.
‘As the country recovers from the pandemic we must look to the future and our world-leading higher education has an important role to play in our success.
‘We need our universities to achieve great value for money – delivering the skills and a workforce that will drive our economy and nation to thrive in the years ahead. My priority is student welfare, not vice-chancellor salaries.’
The latest announcement has led to suggestions the government is exploiting the financial instability of universities to implement their own ideology.
The University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘This third so-called bailout in a matter of months suggests the government has recognised there is a serious crisis but would rather use it to try and impose severe restrictions on universities than ensure their survival.’