A general invite to the student officers and representatives across the University of London saw an audience of around 20 question and debate the future of higher education in England at Queen Mary Students? Union on Thursday 6 February.
Students challenged the Conservatives? policy, both for when the Party was last in government and now for their alternative policy, which would be implemented when they return to power. Mr Boswell iterated that the 50 per cent target for participation in higher education was ?probably a target Tony Blair just plucked out of the air one morning? and is based on no well-thought strategy.?
?We welcome widening participation?, Mr Boswell continued, adding, ?but the way in which this Labour Government is socially engineering is deplorable.?
?Fees, differential or otherwise proposed by the White Paper will do nothing to encourage students to University? indeed it will actually deter students from applying in the long-run.? Reminiscing back to his Oxford days, Mr Boswell felt that today?s student experience of University was very different. ?In 1965 only 5 per cent of the population went to University. At this level, the State was able to pay for tuition and give generous grants to all.? Mr Boswell continued, ?Back then there was the feeling of learning for learning?s sake. Now it is very different and it is true to say that Universities are becoming more of a factory.? He also fondly remembers his dons, some of whom were quaintly eccentric, adding to the student experience.
In a statement to Live! Tim Boswell says ?that the present Government had nothing to be proud about in higher education. They had promised in 1997 no tuition fees and then introduced them; and in 2001 no top-up fees, which the new White Paper was bent on introducing. This step-change in costs was extremely unwelcome, to students who were already facing problems including, for example housing costs and the need for part-time work. The likely levels of debt would be a significant deterrent to low-income groups and a major burden on all families. Conservatives were and are working on higher education policies with the intention of respecting University autonomy, a continuing role for public funding and the need for an overall package which was fair to students".
Mr Boswell encouraged as many as possible to be part of the Conservatives policy-making on higher education as asked for communication by email to [email protected].uk