University Alliance responds to the Spring Budget

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University Alliance, the association of the UK’s leading professional and technical universities, has today responded to the Chancellor’s spring budget statement. 

Commenting on the statement, Vanessa Wilson, University Alliance CEO, said: 

On investment zones: 

“The Chancellor has clearly recognised the role universities play in driving growth in the Spring budget today. We are pleased that universities are recognised as key partners in investment zones: an initiative that could be truly transformational in delivering growth. We know that alliance universities in the Tees Valley, West Midlands and West Yorkshire stand ready to bring their considerable expertise in delivering skills and innovation to these investment zones.” 

On research and innovation: 

“Growth is delivered through innovation, as the Chancellor and PM have both stated many times. For a budget that has been billed as ‘a budget for growth’, today’s statement was rather light on research and innovation. There is no mention of the £1.6 billion that was previously earmarked for the UK’s future association with Horizon Europe and was returned to the Treasury last month. The ongoing uncertainty around Horizon participation has undermined the UK’s reputation as a research superpower, and has held back our members’ research and innovation capability at a time when it needs to be unleashed.” 

On business support: 

Whilst the announcement of enhanced research and development (R&D) tax reliefs for eligible small and medium businesses (SMEs) is a small step in the right direction, innovation support for all small businesses is still significantly behind where it should be. 

“At the beginning of March, over 300 small businesses worked with University Alliance to write to the Chancellor, calling on him to address the upcoming loss of access to the European Regional Development Fund. Many stated that their business would not have survived without the support of ERDF funded programmes. The budget was not the only chance to address the ERDF cliff-edge, but time is rapidly running out. 

“SMEs make up 99.9% of UK businesses, and 51% of national turnover (according to the government’s own figures). If they can’t innovate and expand, local economies will not grow, and the Chancellor will find the national growth he seeks slipping through his fingers.” 

On skills: 

“The UK is currently in the midst of an escalating skills crisis, which is holding back economic growth. The Chancellor is right to identify this as a priority.  

“As the UK’s leading professional and technical universities, our members have, and will continue to, support initiatives such as Higher Technical Qualifications and Skills Bootcamps. We have welcomed the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) as a transformative initiative, which has the potential to widen access to higher education and significantly upskill the UK workforce. 

“With the Learning and Work Institute predicting a shortage of 2.6 million high-skilled workers by 2030, we must focus not only on short-term solutions, but on developing a workforce with advanced knowledge and adaptable skills. Universities will be essential in delivering this.  

“To be successful, universities must work closely with employers to ensure their graduates leave with the skills employers need. Alliance universities are committed to working in partnership with industry and are delivering bespoke training, degrees and degree apprenticeships for employers ranging from Rolls Royce to the Met Police.  

“We will work closely with government to ensure that professional and technical universities can continue to deliver the high-level skills the economy needs to grow.” 

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