Daisy Cooper challenges the government on return of students to university

Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, Deputy Leader and spokesperson for education has just been challenging ministers in the Commons on the problem students have been experiencing during the pandemic. She said that students felt forgotten, that their mental health had deteriorated and government funds for students facing hardship should be doubled.

Addressing Michelle Donelan, Minister for Universities, Daisy said:

“About 36 hours ago, around 1 million students who have still not returned to university since Christmas were told that they should not expect to do so until at least 17 May. Before that announcement, it seemed that the Government had forgotten them altogether, and now we have proof that they had, because for many students that date comes after their courses have actually finished.

“This feels like a final, end-of-term insult to university students, who have had months of not being able to use libraries or labs, months without taking part in student societies or extracurricular activities, months of paying rent for accommodation that they could not use and months without being able to work, with some falling behind on rent and bills and needing to feed themselves from food banks. Is it any wonder that more than 50% of students say their mental health has got worse?

“Students must be fairly compensated, both financially for rent and fees and with support to recover the learning time they have lost. The Government must more than double the funds for those facing hardship to £700 million, as suggested by the all-party parliamentary group for students.”

Hansard.

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22 Comments

  • John Marriott 15th Apr '21 - 6:56pm

    It just goes to show how universities have morphed into businesses offering degree courses as commodities. People who pay good money should expect to get some value out of it. Quite frankly, they should write off this year and let them start again in the Autumn free of charge for a year.

  • Peter Chambers 15th Apr '21 - 8:11pm

    What John Marriott said. +1

  • David Evans 15th Apr '21 - 8:52pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with John Marriott on this. The reason isn’t just that students have paid for it, but also that the quality of education they have received has been severely constrained.

    Of course holding back all university students for a year would mean that student numbers at university would rise by a third, unless the incoming year from schools was held back as well.

    Bearing in mind that in all likelihood their education would have suffered as much if not more than university students, that would be logical. But of course to plan for all that and handle the knock on implications would require a competent government whose idea of an oven ready deal was a bit more than “here’s an oven ready deal” and “f**k business.”

    I actually believe that with Lib Dems in government across all parts of the country, with the ability of people like Kirsty Williams in Wales (and the Alliance in NI), it could have been done. However after the coalition that chance could never be.

  • There just happens to be a nuch better situation in Scotland, though as usual some Lib Dems won’t accept it for reasons best known to themselves.

    Details on Google Cut & paste this : “Student Support Scotland :Logo Students Parents/Carers Working with students Resources

    “Last updated 15 April 2021 Financial support to ensure students can complete their studies. The Scottish Government has announced a further package of support for students. Many of you will be facing uncertainty due to COVID-19, with some of you having to extend or repeat your courses and placements being impacted.

    Minister for Further Education and Higher Education Richard Lochhead has also written to students about the phased return to college and university and additional funding”.

    Universities and colleges — Term Two
    The Scottish Government has created a list of frequently asked questions relating to students returning to college or university for term two, including student accommodation, international students, exams and placements.

  • @David Evans “…Bearing in mind that in all likelihood their education would have suffered as much if not more than university students…”

    This new intake presents a real challenge for UK universities offering the usual 3 year degree courses, as they cannot simply assume they have covered all of the relevant A-level syllabus, whilst this might not be a problem for some subjects for others, particularly STEM subjects, it will be a problem.

  • Absolutely Roland.

    The sticking plaster of teacher assessed grades, will soon be seen to be no more than just that – a short term expedient to pretend things were normal. They weren’t and those young people and ultimately ourselves will end up paying the price for the rest of their lives.

  • John Marriott 16th Apr '21 - 7:49am

    @David Raw
    Ah, Scotland – it does SO many things better than we do south of the border! Could this possibly have something to do with the fact that Scotland is still part of the Union? Would an independent Scotland have the means to offer the same largesse?

    Hasn’t she got her cake and is making a fair fist of eating it already? Why spoil things, Nicola?😀

    @David Evans
    Teacher assessed grades used to be part of the old CSE Mode Three. Standardisation was achieved by the various examining boards holding what used to be called ‘Agreement Trials’ with teacher ‘moderators’ then visiting participating schools. It worked well. Just a pity the Baker ‘reforms’ of the late 1980s swept it and the CSE away.

    When I was teaching in Germany a few decades ago, those students taking the school leaving exam, known as the ‘Abitur’, had their grades assessed entirely by their own teachers. These grades were recognised by universities for qualification and entrance purposes. So, don’t knock pedagogy. With a little help it can deliver. You know, the same could be said to central about local government; but I really don’t want to encourage my LDV co-contributors to explore another tangent!

  • @ John Marriott It might just be that the Scottish Government makes different choices in how to administer things, John…….. and there was nothing to stop Cleggy & mates rom making the same choices Down South when they had an opportunity in Government (shhhhh….don’t mention tuition fees in polite Lib Dem society). Of course the issues of Adult Care and Tuition fees in Scotland were decided under a Lib-Lab Executive before the SNP were anywhere near power.

    Oddly enough , I seem to remember a certain former Councillor Marriott singing the praises of the Saintly Nicola’s press conference about a year ago. Cheers, Chum.

  • John Marriott 16th Apr '21 - 10:25am

    @David Raw
    My wife is half Scots and my two sons are quarter Scots, so of course I’m a fan! Yes, I am very, very impressed with the Scotland I have seen in my travels north of the border since 2000 compared with my first visit back in 1970. That vase of flowers I saw in the public toilets in Thurso a few years ago compared very favourably with the back wall of the main stand at Alloa Athletic’s ground nearly 41 years ago, which served the same rôle for local fans at the end of the game!

    Yes, St Nicola is a smart cookie. Her recent riposte to that other smart cookie, Ruth Davidson, about the latter’s imminent donning of the ermine was priceless. However, progress north of the border has been achieved under various administrations, in which the Lib Dems have played their part as well. The $64,000 is whether becoming an independent state could produce the same result or whether, once ceded, could enable further progress to be made. (Oops, that remark could fall right into the hands of Mr Martin, who, in his remarks about Iceland, I seem to recall, showed himself to be a fan of small states – sorry Peter if it wasn’t you! 😀).

  • I hear what you say, John, but I guess I’m prejudiced : my daughters’ Great Grandpa was a Moderator of the Kirk and my Great Great Grandpa was an Undertaker in Dundee (I don’t think they ran a chumocracy to get new business).

    Iceland isn’t a great example (I remember the discredited wee Eck going on about the Celtic ‘Arc of Prosperity’ just before the Icelandic bank crash).

    I prefer Denmark (same size population) as a better example, no nuclear weapons’ or strutting on the world stage with two Union Jacks nonsense so beloved of de Pfeffel. A liberal civilised society, and there’s always Lego to fall back on if you’re bored.

    “Denmark is the world’s most prosperous country — Study in …studyindenmark.dk › news › ………Denmark is the strongest performing country and tops this year’s Prosperity Index. It ranks in the top 10 for every pillar”.

  • @David Raw

    Only two problems with the UK coalition.

    Firstly the Labour party left us with no money – their words not ours.

    Secondly the Conservative party were the biggest party in Parliament.

    Actually on that basis we did remarkably well.

    We did decide adult social care – the coalition enacted legislation – that passed Parliament and was given royal assent to enact the Dilnot proposals.

    It was the Conservatives that cancelled that legislation after 2015.

    And on tuition fees we actually implemented something that even the National Union of Students said was a cat’s whisker away from being a graduate tax which they supported (and actually in some regards its better than a graduate tax). I just think personally that we should borrow collectively rather than individually for tuition fees.

    On public services in Scotland there is debate as to whether they are over-generously treated by the Barnett Formula. What is not in question is they get out of it greater public funding per head of population than England.

    But you are right to point out that the Lib Dem/Labour coalition in Scotland was very successful.

  • It is interesting to note the considerable difference between Nichola Sturgeon’s approach to Scotland’s circumstances and those of the Dalai Lama towards Tibet. He on the one hand is happy that Tibet is considered as part of China – but wishes it to be viewed as a separate autonomous region – whereas she wants independence at almost any cost – despite having a great deal of autonomy already and yet more would probably be given if she chose to enter into constructive negotiations on the matter.

    The Tibetans have been treated far worse by the Chinese than the Scots have been by the British and as autonomous regions the Tibetans would be economically better off with independence – whereas the Scots would very likely be worse off as such. Also, I suspect, that virtually every Tibetan would prefer their nation to be independent – whereas not much more than half of the Scots want this for Scotland.

    I wonder if this difference in approach is because:

    1] She is female and he male?
    2] She is a politician and he a spiritual leader?
    3] She is much younger than him?
    4] Or some other reason?

  • Joseph Bourke 16th Apr '21 - 12:30pm

    The IFS has just published its analysis of the SNP manifesto https://ifs.org.uk/publications/15400 writing ““The SNP’s manifesto continues with a trend of greater universality in public service provision – providing services free to everyone, rather than using means-testing to focus support on those with the lowest incomes. The plans set out would also mean substantial gains for certain groups of households: many families with, particularly younger, children; households that would benefit from the exemption of all 18 to 21 year-olds from council tax; and those paying for home care, for example.
    Paying for all of these pledges in what could be a tight funding environment over the next few years will require tricky trade-offs though: tax rises or spending cuts in at least some other areas. The tougher fiscal situation an independent Scotland would face in at least its first few years would make the challenge of delivering these commitments even harder.”
    “…the SNP wants to explore reforms that are potentially much more radical: reforming or replacing council tax, introducing a digital sales tax, and moving towards a minimum income guarantee – and potentially eventually a universal basic income. The development of these ideas could turn out to be the defining features of a new SNP government’s tax and benefit policy.
    It is not clear how radical a minimum income guarantee would be. Arguably, the UK already has a minimum income guarantee in the form of universal credit. A key question is whether the SNP essentially wants to make that more generous, or to make it more truly ‘guaranteed’ by removing the restrictions that currently prevent some low-income families from receiving it (such as work search requirements and asset limits)”.

  • @ Michael 1 Some very significant omissions there, Michael, and if I listed them it would exceed the LDV word limit. As a party member since 1962, a party employee, a five times Councillor and a parliamentary candidate I know full well what they are.

    The other bit you miss out is the fact that under Clegg’s leadership the number of Scottish Lib Dem MP’s went down from eleven to one, the popular vote from 528,000 (22.6%) to 219,000 (7.5%), and at Holyrood in 2016 the party came fifth with less MSPs than the Scottish Greens.

    The only things that went up under Clegg were the number of peers and the number of lost deposits……

  • Peter Martin 16th Apr '21 - 2:03pm

    @ Joseph,

    “The tougher fiscal situation an independent Scotland would face in at least its first few years ……..”

    This would depend on whether an independent Scottish government choose to have their own freely floating currency. If they do that then they don’t have any fiscal constraint but they will have an inflation constraint.

    The question, which I’m not sure has been properly answered, is if the Scots would be prepared to do that.

  • Daisy Copper is right to raise this issue. University students have had a tough time of it during the pandemic and online delivery of courses is a poor substitute for the on campus experience.
    Teacher assessed grades this year should not present undue problems. Most students wanting to pursue a course of higher education these days can find a University place. While it is certainly true that A level grades are a good predictor of performance in degree courses; they are are not the be all and end of all of University education. Plenty of students with the bare minimum of UCAS points go on to complete graduation and overseas students typically perform well in UK universities with foreign equivalent qualifications.

  • David Evans 16th Apr '21 - 3:29pm

    Michael 1

    I normally agree with you on most things, but in the case of coalition, I fear you are taking a “glass 10% full” approach whereas I focus on the part that is 90% empty. With that in mind, and in order to stay within the LDV word limit, I have updated your post as follows, with notes in brackets for my source.

    Only 4,420,908 problems with the UK coalition [fall in number of votes received in the General elections].
    Firstly the Labour party left us with no money – their words not ours [It was a joke. Some of us used mock anger in an attempt to make a political point. But it really was a joke.]
    Secondly the Conservative party were the biggest party in Parliament [and that is why we had to be very, very careful we didn’t get shafted and we weren’t].

    Actually on that basis we did remarkably well [Sadly only in our own opinion. In a democracy, what the voters think about a government is what counts].
    We did decide adult social care – the coalition enacted legislation – that passed Parliament and was given royal assent to enact the Dilnot proposals.
    It was the Conservatives that cancelled that legislation after 2015. [and this is why we did not do well – our aim is to build that ‘fair, free and open society’, not just to enact it so the bunch of b******s we let knife us in the back could then cancel it].

    And on tuition fees we actually implemented something that even the National Union of Students said was a cat’s whisker away from being a graduate tax which they supported (and actually in some regards its better than a graduate tax). I just think personally that we should borrow collectively rather than individually for tuition fees. [I haven’t seen or heard anything where the NUS said it was a cat’s whisker … Can you provide a link?]

    If you would like to respond, I would be very willing to discuss these points further with you.

  • John Marriott 16th Apr '21 - 3:36pm

    Regarding A level results and potential, I remember asking my former personal tutor when I was an undergraduate at my Cambridge College, who went on to become its Master, and whom I have since my graduation in 1965 had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions over the years, why I had managed to secure a place with comparatively poor À level grades. His reply was interesting and went something like this; “When we have to decide between two candidates with similar grades, one from a school like Manchester GS, with all its expertise and reputation for high quality teaching and one from a small provincial grammar school, without a history of sending large numbers of students to Oxbridge, we would probably choose the latter as he quite likely had more potential.” I repeated this to him many years later and he still agreed.

    So, although I am not sure whether I lived up to expectation placed in me, it was the ‘value added’ that was important for me and the people, who allowed me the opportunity to partake of what is still in many circles judged, whether it is true anymore, to be the epitome of higher education.

    In this respect, I agree with Joe Bourke. Quite frankly, we put far too much faith in exams and grades, many of which, in my humble opinion, have been allowed to rise exponentially over many years, with the abandonment of norm referencing and the championing of criterion referencing in public examinations. The ability to regurgitate knowledge is only one sign of innate intelligence. An equally important one is how you apply this acquired knowledge in different but related circumstances.

  • Peter Watson 16th Apr '21 - 7:22pm

    @Michael 1 “on tuition fees we actually implemented something that even the National Union of Students said was a cat’s whisker away from being a graduate tax which they supported (and actually in some regards its better than a graduate tax).”

    What is the position of the Scottish Lib Dems on tuition fees? Are they calling for the same system as we have in England and an end to the Scottish Government paying the fees?

  • @ Peter Watson If they ever did they would be out of their minds. But, it’s unlikely because they introduced the scheme (with Labour) in the first place in more enlightened times.

    For the rest of it, when they’re not sitting in outsize deck chairs near the Forth Bridge, playing with huge chess pieces outside a ruined castle, running up (and down) a hill) fondling a badger cub (no farming votes in that), feeding a lamb with a bottle, encouraging pigs to go forth and multiply , wrestling with a large tup for no obvious or apparent reason, they seem to be in favour of the status quo, stoically putting up with Johnsonian Old Etonian Imperial Tory Rule, and talking like a bossy big brother about ‘you can’t afford it’.

    That last one is surely for Scotland to decide ?

  • Peter Watson 16th Apr '21 - 8:17pm

    @David Raw “they introduced the scheme (with Labour) in the first place in more enlightened times.”
    That’s why I still find the Lib Dem position on tuition fees quite confusing, muddled even, more than a decade after the broken pledges of the 2010 election. It all contributes to the impression of a party that doesn’t really know what it’s for.

  • @John Marriott “His reply was interesting and went something like this; “When we have to decide between two candidates with similar grades, one from a school like Manchester GS, with all its expertise and reputation for high quality teaching and one from a small provincial grammar school, without a history of sending large numbers of students to Oxbridge, we would probably choose the latter as he quite likely had more potential.” I repeated this to him many years later and he still agreed.”
    From presentations by Oxbridge Admission Tutors in recent years to students hoping to apply, this reasoning still applies, in part because they want students who will stay the course and get a good degree and not students who are there for the qudos.
    Possible proof is the massive reduction seen in the Eton intake from 99 to 48 and the reaffirmation by Cambridge to admit students ‘of the greatest academic ability and potential, regardless of their social background’…

    From my experience part of the problem is getting people in state schools to see that, if you have ability, that Oxbridge is within your reach and not just for some imaginary academic elite. The only questions are whether the Oxbridge study system is for you or not and whether they offer the best course for you in your chosen field of study. These giving a positive reason to not apply and thus avoid harbouring doubts as to whether you were good enough for Oxbridge. My daughter has made her university choices on this basis and is confident they have chosen the right course and Uni. for them – we now wait results…

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