Minister Sam Gyimah believes the city’s universities are not too big and that anyone who wants to attend one should be able to.
The Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation was in Canterbury last night (Thursday) to address students and members of the public at Christ Church on issues of higher education.
Before his talk, he told the Canterbury Journal that despite local concerns about student numbers and large university-related building projects, people should acknowledge the economic and intellectual value of tertiary education.
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“Certainly in terms of Canterbury with local people saying there are too many students around, it’s important to understand that these issues of town and gown exist in almost every university city that you go to,” Mr Gyimah said.
“Yes, some people may find some students’ behaviour difficult at times. But as universities grow, they provide employment and help stimulate the local economy.
“Is it wrong that one in two 18- to 30-years-olds are in higher education? I think that is a good thing.
“Doing the right degree can increase one’s lifetime earnings and create other benefits.”
Mr Gyimah, elected to Parliament in 2010, ruled out any claim that universities should reduce their size or raise the standard required to get into them.
“I think it’s wrong to say that some people shouldn’t go to university,” he said.
“Anyone who can and wants to should. One of the consequences of the government lifting the cap on student numbers is that we now have more economically disadvantaged students than ever before.
“That is a better situation than we had 30 years ago when very few people did go and they tended to be very well off.”
The issue of tuition fees has split the main two political parties with Labour offering to scrap them completely.
Questions have also surfaced as to whether universities have turned into cash-hungry businesses who all too often treat students as customers.
Mr Gyimah, who represents East Surrey, rejects this: “If students are paying considerable amounts for their education then I think it’s right that they are responded to rather than just being grateful recipients of their education.
“They should be able to make demands of their universities who in turn should go as far telling them what their money goes on.
“It’s considerable amount of money students are investing in their education.”
Finally, Mr Gyimah was asked whether he felt students are reaping the maximum benefit from their studies.
He said: “All the evidence shows that over the course of your life, a degree can increase earnings by £100,000.
“The important thing about university degree is that a good degree is worth the investment and what we want to do is create a situation where they are better informed about what degree suits their investment.”