20th September. 2023

How universities profited from Covid-19

The ‘winners’ of Covid-19 

As the rest of the world suffered from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, universities across the UK greatly benefited from the crisis. Students were forced to navigate the challenges of remote learning, and limited access to both facilities and social interactions, whilst universities were able to profit. 

Less is More

Lockdowns provided universities with two primary sources of potential for financial growth: Firstly, fixed expenses such as electricity, heating, and water bills decreased significantly. Secondly, universities were able to admit a higher number of students, thanks to the flexibility of online teaching platforms like Zoom. 

University College London (UCL) allowed a substantial increase in the number of students admitted between 2018 and 2021. According to its 2021 annual report, this rise in student enrolment has contributed to a notable surge in profits, increasing from £521 million in 2018 to £733 million in 2021 .

Although the UK’s Covid-19 restrictions ended in 2022, universities have not returned to normal classroom teaching. Instead, online teaching has become the norm, depriving students the opportunity to attend lectures in person. A University of the Arts London graduate told the Student Group Claim: “After the pandemic, the university never had in-person lectures for our year group despite everything being back to normal in 2022. It was also a course that relied heavily on studio space, workshop access and in person collaboration, all of this didn’t happen.”  A Salford University student shared a similar experience: “… Long after Covid-19 restrictions had eased, online lectures continued even further into the 2022/23 academic year. How can this be fair?

Callum, a film student from Essex University, had a difficult experience during Covid, telling the Student Group Claim that “heating was cut in the first year for struggling to make ends meet”. He continued saying compensation would mean the world to him “and every student who has struggled financially while the executives at the universities rake in more than ever.

Compensation Required

This post-Covid scenario has effectively prolonged the pandemic experience for students. Most concerningly, university fees have remained unchanged throughout this period. Irrespective of whether students attended university before the pandemicor studied remotely through so-called ‘distanced learning’, tuition fees remain the same. According to a recent publication by Sky News, the government may be catching on to this issue, announcing possible reduction in tuition fees for some university courses.

In light of the recent marking boycotts, students who paid full tuition fees, despite studying online without any in-person tuition, risk missing out on their graduation. Some may need to wait months in order to receive their final grades, risking losing employment opportunities.