Tech guru Dr Nicos Nicolaou, CEO, UNICAF

UK HE sector face losses of £790m from accommodation, catering and conference income and £6.9b should there be a 100% fall in international students 

HE technology guru Dr Nicos Nicolaou, CEO, UNICAF, is urging the UK Government to provide a technological lifeline to universities - as they have done for schools - to save them from financial ruin triggered by COVID-19.

“Government investment in the schools sector has been admirable with over £100 million given to provide devices and internet access for those who need it most; free, expert technical support for schools that want to get up and running on Google for Education or Microsoft’s Office 365 and further advice from twenty schools with outstanding technology practices being awarded between £70,000 and £150,000 through the EdTech Demonstrators programme. But how about Britain’s universities?” asked Dr Nicolaou.

“The future for the UK HE sector is extremely bleak. In an appeal to the Chancellor Rushi Sunak for a Government bailout, Universities UK stated that the UK HE sector is currently facing losses in the region of £790m from accommodation, catering and conference income and additional spend on online learning for students.   A further £6.9b could also be lost should there be a 100% fall in international students. The refunding of tuition fees to this year’s student cohort angry about the quality of the online learning offered by their Universities – 330,000 of which have petitioned the government - is also on the cards.”

Ironically many Western universities have since 2012 used UNICAF’s admission-to-graduation solution to market their degrees abroad and create additional funding streams for their institutions. Now with the advent of COVID-19 the tables have turned and a solution that has primarily been used to educate over 30,000 students in developing countries within the sub-Saharan African continent is now being repurposed to serve students in the UK.


Backed by major financiers Goldman Sachs, the CDC Group, University Ventures and Edex, UNICAF’s state-of-the-art digital platform enables students to study online and to earn a qualification for a fraction of the price it costs to study in the UK and US. Unlike traditional virtual ‘learning’ environments used by UK universities, UNICAF’s cloud-based digital learning platform enables HE institutions to manage effectively the entire student journey from registration through to graduation. Fully compliant with all UK HE regulations, it features custom-made learning material, a digital library, ebooks, the Turnitin plagiarism prevention service and support for students that have already accepted, registered and paid. New students keen to start university in the next academic year can apply online, access information about grades, review their admission status, be accepted online, pay online, study online and submit documents – options that most UK universities can only offer and process manually from their physical facilities.   

Once an agreement has been signed, UNICAF is able to take programmes online in just 8 weeks. “UK universities and their current student cohort are facing great hardship. We believe this technology originally developed for under-served populations in sub-Saharan Africa could be the solution that will help everyone through these dark times” concluded Dr Nicolaou. UNICAF is already working in partnership with a number of UK universities helping them offer their programmes in Africa and elsewhere.

UK universities may have to continue with online delivery for local and international students in the new academic year and UNICAF is well placed to help them ‘do just that’.

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