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Covid-19 Sector News Round-Up April 2020

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In our new bi-monthly news blog, we are looking at how the apprenticeship and training sector has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. This month, AELP seeks legal advice over DfE exclusion of apprenticeship providers, and while universities struggle financially, EdTech experimentation takes off.

Legal advice sought over coronavirus apprenticeship providers

The AELP is seeking legal advice after a letter from apprenticeships minister Gillian Keegan to MPs stated that government funding to help businesses over Covid-19 would “not apply in relation to apprenticeships funded from employer digital accounts where the contractual relationship is between the employer and the provider”.

The Cabinet Office’s Procurement Policy Notice 02/20, says the DfE, only applies to services procured under the Public Contract Regulations 2015.

The AELP believe this excludes providers of apprenticeships from levy-payers from Covid relief. Support, they say, will only be available to providers servicing non-levy payers who have a direct contract with the ESFA. However, they argue that because the levy is a tax, it effectively means levy-funded apprenticeships also have a direct contract with the ESFA.

FE Week, who reported on this dispute, says:

“The DfE is expected to set out further detail on their supplier relief measures and the criteria for accessing it at the end of this week.”

Universities struggle over Covid-19 but capacity for innovation undiminished

UK universities are facing a financial crisis because of Covid-19.

The Guardian reported in early March that international students from Covid-19 affected countries were cancelling or postponing their courses, due to start in Autumn 2020.

In early April, the Guardian further reported that universities had requested billions in support from the government, because of losses likely to be incurred around UK/EU and international recruitment, a fall in research income and losses from conferences, accommodation and catering.

The Times Higher noted that some universities had responded by laying off fixed-term and casual staff.

Despite the impending financial crisis, universities have been shown at their best, with academic staff innovating around distance learning and virtual teaching. Universities are also at the forefront of Covid-19 vaccine and treatment innovation.

Universities, like other educational institutions, have long been caught between a strong belief in the quality of their traditional offering – a student and academic community built around full-time attendance – and advances in digital communication and EdTech increasingly embraced by many sectors.

Will there be a rethink around the objectives of higher education delivery in the digital, fourth industrial age? Maybe.

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