Covid learning gap estimated to cost the UK over £1.4 trillion

Research by student accommodation platform - UniHomes – reveals the estimated cost to the UK due to Covid-19.

University education learning gap - UniHomes | PBSA News

Research shows that the learning gap caused by Covid-19 school closures is estimated to cost the UK £1.472 trillion in lost GDP over the next 80 years. Research by the UK’s leading student accommodation platform – UniHomes – also highlights the personal impact could equate to a loss of £17,000 in the lifetime earnings of the average student. 

Covid-19 school closures have hit the education sector on a global scale and the World Bank believes that 774.2m students worldwide have seen their school close completely or partially at some point due to the pandemic

What does this disruption mean for the future of the 13.5m students studying at primary school level and above in the UK?

The research by UniHomes shows that a nationwide shutdown of three months in mid-March of last year, and further disruption due to tiered lockdown systems and selected closures in December, has resulted in UK students losing approximately a third of their school year to Covid-19.  

This is before you consider the further detriment caused by remote learning for much of the first quarter of 2021. As a result, the UK loss of learning sits as high as 33% of a single school year. 


A recent report by the OECD highlighted ‘the long-run loss in GDP due to Corona-induced learning loss’. The findings suggest that a loss of learning equivalent to just 33% of the school year, as suffered by UK students, could cause a long-term loss of 69% of the current GDP value until the year 2100. 

UniHomes research shows that based on current GDP, this Covid-induced learning loss of 69% over the next 80 years could cost the UK as much as £1.472 trillion.

Individual Loss

The OECD report also states that a loss of learning equivalent to just one third of the school year would also reduce the subsequent earned income of pupils impacted by 3% during their lifetime. 

For the average UK student opting not to pursue a university education in the UK will earn £475,000 during their lifetime. This 3% loss in personal earnings due to the Covid-19 learning gap means a reduction of £14,250 in their total earnings. 

The average university graduate will earn £582,532 in their lifetime, £107,532 more than those with a minimum of five A-C grade GCSEs. However, a 3% decline due to Covid-19 could now cause this lifetime income to drop by £17,476.

“The UK education system is doing all it can to return to normality as swiftly and as safely as possible and we’re lucky in some respects, that the digital world we live in has allowed us to better navigate the problems posed by the pandemic. 

“Remote learning has enabled the majority of students to maintain some form of education, particularly higher education students, and this has helped to minimise the impact of the Covid learning gap. 

“That said, it’s clear that such a prolonged period of disruption will come at a cost and this cost is a reduction in the lifetime earning potential, which in turn, will cause a severe loss to the wider economy.

“Many have chosen to pursue higher education rather than face the bleak prospect of a tough job market during the pandemic and the impact of the Covid learning gap further highlights the importance of a university education for future generations. 

“With the average university graduate earning considerably more during their lifetime, it’s likely we will see a greater number opt for this path in order to mitigate the impact of learning losses on income.”

Phil Greaves, Co-Founder, UniHomes