So, I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Gyimah last Thursday as he made a visit to my University for his first interview as Britain’s new University and Science Minister. He came across well during the hour or so sit down chat he had with one of QMULs Professor’s Philip Cowley. One thing I have noticed is that he like many other politicians does a good job at diverting a question to filter them in a certain light. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing per say, just an observation. I’m sure many of us would do the same if we held political power but I digress.
During the question and answer session he proposed a “review of the current student finance” in Universities across the country. Surely, that’s a great thing, right? Students all want a reduction in costs, some would say scrap the costs altogether I’m sure. But I think we’d be too naïve to think Mr Gyimah would ever campaign for a complete scrap of fees. His words were very much “lets see what happens” and “have a look at how it works”. Nothing concrete. Although, we cannot expect anything solid as he has only held the position of Universities minister for a limited amount of time.
Students often feel neglected by the government and as a student myself, I feel at times we are side-lined. But I think as a generation where politics is more prevalent than ever, students need to campaign for what they want to change or import into their higher education studies. Mr Gyimah as the Universities minister is going to have to listen carefully and act in an efficient manner. There is nothing worse than false promises and sugar-coating issues. He needs to address student issues full on and find a way to make his actions more believable than his words.
Smooth talking can at times work but when you take in consideration these are the lives of a generation that will shape the future, there needs to be some heavy barriers broken down to not leave them at a disadvantage. More so students from a lower socio-economic background. Like Gyimah mentioned at the session, there are students who have been the first in their families to enter University and the costs of living has been extortionary, students are being abused financially by accommodation contracts that are in place.
Mental health is an ongoing issue amongst students today. There was a question asked at the event from a student who had difficulty with Student Finance England regarding gaining his maintenance loans as he did not have a physical disability, there were problems he had with gaining sufficient support from them. Therefore, showing there is still stigma attached with mental health and how it’s not being taken as a serious issue in government. Which leaves students suffering from mental health as an afterthought in the eyes of the government. Gyimah needs to come forward and make this a strong aim in his plans.
Only time will tell whether Gyimah’s appointment has had any significant benefit… he has just very recently signed an agreement for UK Universities to expand in Egypt. So that’s something, I guess?
Gyimah is in for a bumpy ride with this new role, very different to his past as Prisons and Probation minister. We can only hope he isn’t completely out of his depth here.