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Budget Day 2021: What It Means for the Higher Education Sector

Budget Day 2021 marks the first budget since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, national lockdowns and the rapid transformation of the higher education sector into online learning and closed campuses.

So, what does the 2021 budget mean for the higher education sector and what should higher education leaders be looking out for?

In this short guide IG Higher Education share the core announcements made from the 2021 Budget Day and how they relate to the future of the higher education sector.

Help to Grow

The budget laid out plans for a new ‘Help to Grow’ scheme, the programme is aimed at supporting small and medium companies to access either executive development programmes or free advice and cost deductions on digital upgrades.

The management programme will be of particular relevance to the higher education sector with the course expected to be delivered by business schools across the UK.

The programme is due to be launched in June 2021 and run over 3 years, offering 30,000 places to business leaders. It is planned for the cost to be £750 for participants, with 90% of the cost covered by government.

The programme will be run as a part-time course that can be conducted alongside a full-time job, with the aim being to support emerging businesses to develop business growth plans and advance key skills in financial management and digital adoption.

Attracting International Talent

In a major announcement for the research and development sector, the budget also revealed a new visa reform process. The reforms are intended to improve access to the UK for highly skilled migrants and major international talents, in particular in the fields of science, research and technology.

The scheme will introduce a new elite points-based visa, with the ability to fast track visas for those offered jobs under a new ‘scale up’ stream.

The visa reforms will also mark a change to the Global Talent Visa, with those with scholarships or the recipients of major international prizes to automatically qualify.

Research and Development Tax Relief

The Treasury has launched a new consultation into the existing R&D tax relief schemes. The aim is to conduct a review to ensure that the UK remains internationally competitive for R&D globally and to ensure investment delivers maximum impact.

Qualifying expenditure for R&D tax credits are also under review, with the proposal of data and cloud computing costs being considered for tax relief.

R&D Investment for Vaccine Development

The government has previously made clear their investment of £6 billion on the development and procurement of vaccines.

This budget also points to £128 million assigned to research and development on vaccine development and their manufacture. Equally, £1.65 billion has been assigned to vaccine rollout as the country seeks to escalate the deployment of the vaccine.

Levelling Up Fund

In a significant development for those in the sector focussed on regional economic growth and investment, the budget also launched the £4.8 billion levelling up fund. The prospectus has now been launched and the aim is that the Fund will be highly targeted to infrastructure development, regeneration and programmes to boost regional economies. With many institutions playing a vital role in the place-based agenda, this Fund will mark a major moment in the move towards delivering action on the ‘levelling up’ ambitions.

In addition to the Levelling Up Fund, the budget also announced £1 billion from the Towns Fund to support 45 town deals across England. Equally, the government announced its intention to accelerate 3 City and Growth Deals in both Scotland and Wales.