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Home > Covid-19 > Supporting the national effort > How universities can support the national effort

How universities can support the national effort

​Universities are vital in supporting their local communities and the nation in the effort to fight Covid-19, and are helping organisations in many different ways. With the NHS this includes enabling new graduates to enter the NHS workforce, providing essential equipment and conducting crucial scientific research.

As well as supporting the NHS, universities are supporting their staff and students to volunteer to help vulnerable and isolated people, deliver food and fill local skills gaps. Online courses are either being set or made available to the public covering both practical advice and a range of topics that anyone could be interested to learn about, from exercise to museum tours.

Universities are already engaging with a wide range of local partners to meet their needs including the NHS, police, local government, businesses and charities. Examples of what universities are doing can be found on the #WeAreTogether pages of our website and on social media; just search #WeAreTogether. 

What Universities UK is doing

As well as local activities and support there are clear national needs and calls for support. There are many requests, ideas and needs that universities are doing their best to meet.

To help universities meet national requests effectively, Universities UK is establishing key contacts in universities to ensure that requests can get to universities quickly. UUK is also building a network of national departments, agencies and partners to help ensure national requests for help are clear, co-ordinated and enable universities to offer the most effective support as quickly as possible.

UUK will be collating, co-ordinating and communicating national requests to universities. UUK will also identify, develop and share additional guidance and information where this is needed to share good practice and save time.

We are also partnering with the Civic Universities Network, The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, the NHS Confederation, The Department for Education and GuildHE to collectively reach out to a wide range of stakeholders to inform and support the university and higher education response.

Ministerial engagement

On 16 April a joint letter from Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP and Science and Research Minister Amanda Solloway MP was sent to university leaders to express gratitude for their help and support tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The significant contribution university-based research is making to understanding, diagnosing and treating the virus was acknowledged by both ministers.

The letter highlighted that more support was needed in the areas of:

  • equipment
  • accommodation
  • workforce
  • increase testing capacity

The full letter, including further details of these requests, can be read as a pdf.

Live Requests

A list of live requests for university assistance can be found below. These will be updated daily throughout the pandemic, and we encourage universities to engage with requests where they have capacity. Full details for each request are included in the linked document including specific requirements, timescales and how to respond.

Identification of accommodation to house NHS staff (R001- 27 March)

Recruitment of qualified staff to support the expansion of testing for COVID-19 in laboratories in Milton Keynes, Cheshire and Glasgow (R002- 3 April)

Request for identification of possible car parking sites for drive through Covid-19 testing sites for NHS staff and key workers (R004- 5 April)

Request for solutions and ideas: National Covid-19 testing (R005- 11 April)

Request for identification of interim and longer-term accommodation to house rough sleepers (R006- 18 May)


For more information, email: Covid19@universitiesuk.ac.uk.

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