Investing in our future

Written by Scarlett Regan, Researcher

Edited by Adam Shaw, Associate Partner

Good morning,

It’s strange to think about where we all were a year ago, and how blissfully unaware we were of the incoming global pandemic. I would likely have been sitting in Durham University’s affectionately named “Billy B” library. Ah, the good old days.

Now that we’re quite miserably aware of said pandemic, we know that British universities have been hit hard by it. It is expected that 230,000 fewer students will start university in 2020, over half of whom would have been from overseas. International student recruitment brings in £13 billion to UK’s universities, so this represents a huge financial blow.

It would likely result in job losses too: a report by London Economics for the University and College Union estimates that over 60,000 jobs will be lost, both in universities themselves and in their respective local economies.

And that’s if they are allowed to open in September.

As of yet, neither the UK nor Scottish government have announced any help for these institutions. It is all very well that there is some handsome UK government funding going into Oxford University and Imperial College London for their battle to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. But there is a case for governments to provide immediate support for the university sector as a whole, as they have done for other parts of the economy.

British universities are world leaders in researching the world’s most pressing issues, from climate change to homelessness. And, in this particular crisis, they have provided the experts that governments are relying on ­– the doctors and nurses on the frontline and the engineers building emergency ventilators, to name but a few.

The university sector itself needs to do some self-reflection to build its own future resilience too. This will involve some deep thinking, focussing on being forward-thinking, flexible institutions. They should have all the technology in place to function remotely. They will need to work with rather than against each other. Some might need to merge. More interaction and support for their local economies will be essential. The division between town and gown needs to go.

In a post-corona era, the cross-pollination of universities, governments and businesses must germinate a new energy for acting in the wider interest of society. Because investing in the future of these institutions will enable millions of students to invest in their own.


The UK is to hold a one-minute silence to pay tribute to key workers who have died from coronavirus at 11am today. More than 100 health and care workers have died of the virus, as have many working in transport and other key sectors.

Doctors have been alerted to an unusual mix of symptoms – toxic shock syndrome, abdominal pains, gastrointestinal symptoms and cardiac inflammation – in some children, and there has been a suggested link with coronavirus in a small number of cases in England. At yesterday’s UK government press briefing, Professor Chris Whitty said that it is a “rare situation” but that it is “entirely plausible that this is caused by this virus”.

EU leaders convened a video conference yesterday to discuss plans for reviving tourism while preventing a second wave of the virus. Several options were deliberated, such as opening “tourist corridors” between EU member states, subject to social distancing and tracking systems. The Spanish government has so far resisted calls to partially reopen their beaches. It is expected that “staycations” will be popular as the economics of social distancing on charter flights bodes badly for international travel.

Business and economy

The UK’s oil and gas industry has warned that 30,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the global pandemic and the price of Brent Crude oil falling to its lowest level in 20 years. The sector fears that the problems will outlast the pandemic, as many workers have been laid off completely rather than furloughed. The predicted 30,000 job losses would represent one in five of those employed by the sector.

Gambling firms have stopped all TV and radio advertising for the remainder of the lockdown. Existing advertising slots will either be replaced by safer gambling messages, donated to charities, or removed from broadcast for at least six weeks. According to industry body the Betting and Gambling Council, this decision aims to protect customers during the pandemic. It will, however, contribute to broadcasters’ struggle as they battle a collapse in advertising revenue.

Almost 40% of UK firms expect to cut staff over the next 12 months, a survey by Lloyds Bank has revealed today. Seventy-four per cent of businesses said they were being hit hard and nearly a third of firms expect to freeze pay. Scottish and Welsh businesses have been particularly impacted, with confidence falling to minus 50 and 52 respectively.

Columns of note

InThe Times, Hugo Rifkind questions “how the hell” we ended up with the political leaders we’ve got. He argues that both the media and politicians are stuck, as they have evolved to thrive in a niche that they are no longer in. In the last four years there have been no facts, just arguments. Now, though, there are scientific facts, death tolls, numbers and truths everywhere we look. (£)

In theFinancial Times, Robert Shrimsley argues that the end of the UK coronavirus lockdown will threaten a new health divide. It will exaggerate the inequality between those who can work from home, or practice social distancing in an office, and those who, by the nature of their jobs, cannot. Those who can insulate themselves from this virus have a duty to those who can’t, if the social cohesion of recent weeks is to last beyond the lockdown. (£)

Source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

Wall Street joined a global rally yesterday, as governments laid out plans to ease lockdown restrictions. Several European countries – the UK, Italy, Spain, France and Germany – reported their lowest daily death tolls in several weeks.

It was a fairly positive day for the markets. The US S&P 500 extended early gains to be up 1.3% in afternoon trading and the tech-centred Nasdaq gained 1.1%. The European Stoxx 600 was up 1.8%, closing at the highest this month. The FTSE 100 rose 1.6%, and Frankfurt’s Dax up 3.1%.

Japan’s Topix benchmark closed 1.8% higher, as the Bank of Japan pledged to buy an unlimited number of government bonds to support the economy.

The US Federal Reserve will convene today for a policy meeting and the European Central Bank will meet in two days’ time. Investors are hoping for more stimulus from these central banks.

In company news:

Adidas, the world’s second largest sportswear maker, warned yesterday that the Covid-19 crisis could mean the company faces its first loss in more than four years during the second quarter. Closing more than 70% of its stores has shrunk its revenues by 19% in the first quarter. The company expects that sales will decline at more than twice this rate in the second quarter.

Housebuilder Redrow announced that it plans to remobilise on the 11 May and restart construction on the 18 May. These dates are after those planned by Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey.

What's happening today?

Finals Int Diag Hld Keystone Law G. Stm Grp. Trading Announcements Shoe Zone Xps Pensions AGMs Alba Min Aptitude Franchise Brand

Hammerson Maven I&g Vct5 Pendragon Seneca Growth Weir Grp. Annual Report Impact Health Final Dividend Payment Date Crh

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

Did you know?

Until the 1970s, Lego bricks contained the toxic metals cadmium and lead.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons


Domestic Abuse Bill: 2nd reading

Oral Questions

Attorney General

Oral Questions

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

House of Lords

Oral Questions

Extending funding to ensure the continuation of existing training and racing programmes for potential Olympic and Paralympic athletes until the 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo - virtual proceeding - Lord Moynihan

Oral Questions

Progress made in the negotiations on the future relationship with the EU - virtual proceeding - Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

Oral Questions

Using Overseas Development Assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the protection and safeguarding of girls and women from gender-based violence - virtual proceeding - Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Oral Questions

Impact of changing dairy prices on farmers - virtual proceeding - The Lord Bishop of St Albans


Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill – Second reading – Lord Keen of Elie

Scottish Parliament

Ministerial Statement

Reporting on Emergency Legislation

Ministerial Statement

Health (Covid-19)

Ministerial Statement

Transport (Covid-19)

Topical Questions (if selected)

First Minister’s Questions

Committee Announcements

Business Motions