Gavin Williamson slammed for ‘infuriating’ comments about ‘dead end’ college courses


The National Union of Students (NUS) has criticized Gavin Williamson for his “irritating” comments after speaking of “dead end” university courses.

The education secretary has faced backlash over remarks about courses that ‘leave young people with nothing but debt’.

It comes just days after the government launched a consultation which proposed to halve a grant to universities for certain arts subjects, such as performing arts and archaeology.

In an article published by Conservative houseMr Williamson said the proposed legislation will ‘strengthen the ability of the Office for Students (OfS) to crack down on poor quality tuition, in line with our manifesto commitment’.

He said: ‘The record number of people going into science and engineering demonstrates that many are already beginning to walk away from dead-end courses that leave young people with nothing but debt.

Mr Williamson added: ‘Our reforms will pave the way for them to seize the opportunities offered by degree apprenticeships, higher technical qualifications, modular learning and our flagship institutes of technology.’

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio of NUS recounted The Independent“The Education Secretary’s infuriating comment comes just a week after a 50% funding cut for arts subjects and is an attack on a host of hugely valuable disciplines that enrich our society.”

OfS noted the proposed cuts linked to a grant it provides – which is “much smaller” than tuition fees – to help universities offer subjects that are expensive to teach.

Ms Gyebi-Ababio, NUS Vice President for Higher Education, said The Independent Mr Williamson’s comments come after “a year in which we have all relied heavily on creative talent, literature and entertainment for our own well-being”.

She added: “His limited concept of the purpose of education has once again been shown to be completely out of touch with the country.”

British universities said The Independent“It is essential that the public have full confidence in the value and quality of a university degree, and the overwhelming majority of courses are of high quality and provide good value for students.”

The body – which represents 140 institutions in the UK – said in a statement: ‘Increasing funding for expensive courses such as medicine is vital, but the proposed changes to funding for arts subjects are of grave concern.

“Cuts to subjects such as drama, music, performing arts and creative arts could mean a reduction in the number of courses offered.”

A OfS consultation with the Education Secretary earlier this month proposed a reduction in a grant for courses in performing and creative arts, media studies and archaeology.

As part of the proposed changes, the SFO said a grant given to universities for aid in high-cost subjects would be halved to £121.50 per student per year for certain subjects.

England’s higher education regulator said the cuts amounted to “a reduction of around 1% in combined tuition fees and OfS funding”.

However, the proposals have raised alarm among musicians, who have warned that cutting off this funding channel would be “catastrophic” for most higher education music courses.

The OfS funding changes consultation proposed an increase in grants for high-cost subjects “identified as supporting the NHS and wider health policy, high-cost subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and/or specific labor market needs”.

The OfS said its funding budget “will need to stretch further in coming years with significant growth in student numbers expected – particularly in courses which cost more to teach.

“The government has also highlighted the professional shortages of scientists, engineers, medical and dental practitioners, nurses and midwives, and the importance of supporting STEM and health topics in guiding the OfS.”

He added: “Against this backdrop, we have to make tough decisions about how to prioritize our increasingly tight funding budget.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said The Independent earlier this month, the reforms “are designed to target taxpayers’ money to the things that support the skills this country needs to build back better.”


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