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State of the Region 2020 Full Report

Skills and Education

With some schools reopening for some students from June, it is appropriate to reflect on the large literature indicating that school closures lead to slower progress or a reduction in learning outcomes for students. Despite moves to digital learning there remain concerns about disparities in access, with economically disadvantaged students most affected. There are also concerns about the development of skills that are more difficult to replicate online –including social and emotional skills that are prized by employers. Policy suggestions for overcoming educational disadvantage include extending vocational courses for young people by an additional year; greater flexibility in apprenticeships; extending maintenance loans and greater support for adult reskilling. Young people –especially those with no prior work experience –set to finish further education courses soon are likely to face particular challenges entering employment, with prospects set to be particularly limited for those taking courses in hospitality & catering, and in sports, leisure & recreation.

The university sector continues to be of high concern in the region due to the significant number of jobs and direct and indirect effects, this sector is also underpinning some of the dramatic drops in forecast performance. The instability of the university sector will also effect the future innovation capacity in the region and the support given to businesses to increase resilience as a result. All universities are impacted but the Universities of Birmingham, Coventry and Warwick are especially exposed to a contraction in international students, with important implications for local economies, given the importance of student spending. 

Universities also face uncertainty about domestic recruitment and are seeing high levels of deferral. They have also lost income from commercial activities and rental accommodation. This is a particular issue to the West Midlands the region has more universities than anywhere else after London, they support 155k students and have a direct expenditure of £2.6bn in the region and £12bn indirect and supports 71,000 jobs, which puts GVA at £7.5bn (manufacturing worth £11bn). This sector is predicted to be one of the hardest hit due to international student numbers and impact on private sector investment in R&D. The region’s universities can expect a serious hit in long-term revenues, resulting from greatly reduced enrolment of international students. This exposure varies across the region (as below); Warwick University is the most exposed with 37% international students, while the University of Wolverhampton is comparatively insulated at only 4% on this measure. 

  • The region has 155k HE students and direct expenditure of £2.6bn and we have yet to see the impact of international travel on recruitment.