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Today on The Big Questions:
Is Britain still racist?
And higher education.
Is it delivering for
students and society?
I'm Nicky Campbell.
Welcome to The Big Questions.
Today we're live from
St Edward's School in Oxford.
to The Big Questions.
Wednesday's announcement that
Cheddar Man, a Mesolithic
hunter-gatherer who lived
here 10,000 years ago,
was dark-skinned with blue eyes
turned upside down many people's
ideas about early Britons.
Pale skin and fair hair
didn't appear in Europe
until after the arrival
of farming, around 3000 years
later than Cheddar Man.
No-one knows how the dark-skinned
and fair-skinned Britons
viewed each other then
or even if they would have met.
But today we do know that the colour
of a person's skin does
affect their chances in life.
A recent survey by NatCen
for the Runnymede Trust found 26%
of the sample admitted
to being racially prejudiced.
18% thought that some races
or ethnic groups are born
with less intelligence and 44%
thought that some races
are naturally harder
working than others.
But while people of colour are more
likely to end up in prison,
white working-class boys
are still at the bottom
of the heap educationally.
And as Beyonce's dad remarked this
week, it's easier for those black
female artists with lighter
skin to become a success
than it is for their darker sisters.
Is Britain still racist?
Afua, you have written this
fascinating book Brit-ish, which has
caused a lot of stirrer and
interesting debate and conversation
but this is the question that you
have got to be asked. Middle-class
girl, private school, successful
journalist, how has racism effect
I am glad you added the facts
in your intro because it has freed
me up from the need to insist that
racism does affect society. Whatever
statistics you take, a quarter of
people of another ethnic heritage
have been abused by a manager, half
of ethnic minority families are
living in poverty, the list is
endless. I have written this book
because I have had a very privileged
life. I am not a victim. I have had
so many opportunities and everywhere
I have gone in society, the media,
the bar, working in development, I
have seen structural unfairness
against people of colour. Everywhere
I have looked. And I feel it is the
responsibility for me to use my
platform to speak about these
things. If I don't... This is a
class based society. You need to
have privileged like me in most
cases to be able to access platforms
like this where we are sitting right
now. I am speaking about what I see
affecting all of us, whatever our
race, because we all live in a
structural racialised society.
about used African people, Asians
and the Chinese?
In my book I am
calling for a more detailed talk
about race. We are not all the same.
BAME is not one ethnic group.
South-east Asian people are
overrepresented at consultant level
in the NHS. It is important to
differentiate these experiences and
at the moment I am sorry to say that
we have a very simplistic approach.
We say that white working-class boys
are not doing well in schools in
coastal and rural areas. That means
we have overcome racism and the only
prejudice in society is class based.
Is anyone saying we have overcome
racism when we say that?
We have got
to have this conversation.
that was the nuance we were looking
It is. I have not experienced
what the generation above me
experience, being chased down the
street by people with baseball bats
and being called offensive racial
slur words. That has not been my
It has gone, hasn't it?
has not. Since Brexiter specially
there has been a spike in overt acts
of racism. But that has not been my
experience. My experience is a much
more insidious and harder to
articulate racism which is based on
400 years of history which does not
Professor Swaran Singh, so much to
go on here! So little time. 400
years of history. What do you think
about this? Some people see there is
identity politics here. You're
feeling of inferiority against
another person's and that is what
some people are saying about this.
What is your interpretation of that?
It is. I was assaulted
by three white men. Since then I
have seen structural and individual
racism. And I have also seen the
enormous progress Britain has made.
I could either judge Britain by the
handful of bad experiences I have
had or the millions of ordinary
everyday interactions with ordinary,
everyday, white, British citizens.
The question is whether Britain is
racist. Compared to what? Compared
to a utopian mythical society where
nothing bad ever happens to anyone?
Britain is probably racist. Compared
to another society that has ever
existed, Britain is one of the
fairest in society. Racism certainly
exists and racist people certainly
exist but you can't judge this
society wholescale. And you cannot
use group differences and give a
simplistic answer. You can't say it
must be because of race. There are
multiple factors. And identity
politics, it is the student politics
of narcissism and being
The student politics
of narcissism? I saw you shuffling
in your chair!
It is ironic to say
it is narcissistic politics when
your whole answer was I have had
good experiences in Britain. Looking
at racism, you have got to look at
the collective. You can't find any
statistic that doesn't have a racial
bias in it, not one. We could go for
an hour. This does tell us when
we're having a debate about whether
Britain is racist. Of course it is.
You want to compare to other
countries and that is not the board.
The point is that racism is in the
DNA of this country let me finish.
Let me explain. Let me explain DNA.
That is quite afraid. I will come
back to you. We have time and I have
the inclination and you have got the
voice! Look at all the guests.
Racism, Tony Sewell, is in the DNA
of this country?
The Cheddar Man is
in the DNA of this country, which is
interesting. One of the points that
has been made, which we have got to
look at, is the notion of progress.
I grew up in the same era as Cyrille
Regis, the same generation, and we
experienced day and night racism
coming at us. I run a charity called
Generating Genius, which is day and
night producing probably at the
moment in terms of statistics,
talking about numbers here, probably
more black girls now going into
higher education than in the top
results. We will probably be
outstripping and beyond comparison
with other groups at the highest
level. What is happening here? I
think you are in danger with this
kind of discourse that says that
Britain is racist therefore we
can't, you will just make the lives
of those children just the sense
that we can't progress. It takes
away the real power ad agency.
Agency, the words coming out of my
mouth. In a couple of weeks we
celebrate the 70th anniversary of
the Windrush generation. That group
that came from the Caribbean and was
asked to come over here. Massive
resilience of those people that
withstood racism and came out. What
was characteristic of that
generation, and if they were here
now and speaking, they wouldn't
recognise this notion of Britain
being racist. They would see a
massive improvement. Unless you are
inside that, unless you are dealing
with that, you can't move on, and
you can't progress.
Do you agree
with people who say there is native
heard going on here?
varies victimhood. There is
victimhood. I fight with people day
and night to come out that
mentality. It is like what you are
thinking is holding you back. That
is the framework. I interrupted
Kehinde on the DNA point. I am sure
you would like to pick up and
This is why I say DNA.
Written's wealth was established on
slavery, genocide and colonialism.
You can have a whole session on
that. It is. It is not just that.
Why did we come in these numbers, to
build the nation. They brought us
into the country just to do their
work. This is a really important
point. It is not victimhood to
understand that you are racially
oppressed if you are black in
Britain today. That is not
victimhood. Let me explain.
Male unemployment is
at crisis levels for black youths.
Crisis points. We are doing well in
our nice clothes.
our nice clothes.
we are overrepresented.
can't get jobs.
A lot of students
can't get jobs.
There are two really
important jobs. Black graduates are
significantly less likely to get
jobs. We are making an argument for
resistance. That is not victimhood.
I am not a victim and I am not
saying anybody is.
saying anybody is.
now, I could be sitting here, in
Liverpool, I am picking up some
areas, and the same argument would
There will be people who
are poor if we were never here.
are poor if we were never here.
Tony, Kehinde, I will be with you. I
would be good in the classroom,
wouldn't I? This film that you made.
The Psychosis of Whiteness. Some
people might think that is a racist
It is a provocative title!
somebody made a film Psychosis Of
They Did Actually Write A
Book About That.
I Stand Corrected.
We Have Just Presented All The
Evidence. There Is No Evidence That
There Is Not Racism In Britain And
Things Have Improved, There Isn't.
Instead Of Looking At It And
Understanding It, We Have An
Irrational Discussion About I Had
This Great Experience And We Have
These Graduates. The Point Of This
Argument Is That Whiteness Is Not
Just A Rational Thing That You Can
Debate. For 400 Years We Have Been
On The Right Side Of The Debate And
Nothing Has Changed. The 40 Minute
We Will Talk In Circles Because We
Cannot Admit To The Elephant In A
Room Which Is That This Country Is
You Just Said There Was 40%
Unemployment But What Other 60%
Doing? They Are In Employment. How
Does That Work?
That Is Ridiculous!
Sorry I am making a point.
stops young man from getting jobs.
So why isn't it stopping that 60%?
You could give me an answer as to
why it is not affecting them
This is becoming about
ideology and not identity and there
is a difference.
Now come in on that
In a second. If you don't
mind, we will come to you. You work
in Leicester. Do you see racism?
grew up in Leicester. It is
parallel, our lives, but different.
I would have grown up poor. But with
literally no racism growing up
whatsoever, in school, around me,
not at all. I grew up in mixed
areas. Having lived in London, one
of the things I really noticed was
that people, ethnic minorities that
I knew, had adopted a US centric
idea of race. That meant that they
tended to jump to racism as there go
to. Having grown up in Leicester and
environment I had, I saw it as being
a range of different things that
might occur. There might be reasons
for negative interaction. I wouldn't
always go for racism because they
could be a perfectly good other
reason for that which they didn't
I am going to come back to the
audience and I know Afua wants to
come back in. I am doing the best
that I can and it is never going to
be good enough. You had your hand
up. Quick points from everyone.
student newspaper I edit, we ran a
front page a few weeks ago and we
worked out to an investigation that
only two black students in the
horror of Oxford got firsts in the
final results, compared to 850 white
students. Part of the problem used
to be that Oxford was not one to
address that. They were unwilling to
confront the colonial past that you
looked at. Example there was a guy
trying to sue Oxford for not getting
a first, and it turned out the
reason he got her 2:1 was because he
studied Indian history and 13 out of
15 people got a low mark on it
because Oxford is not willing to
provide provision, where is it will
for medieval European history.
is an assertion. Good morning. That
is the microphone.
I am relating to
the gentleman, I couldn't get his
name. He came to this country 30
years ago. He had a bad experience
on the third day. I have come to
this country eight years ago to do
my masters. Taking on board your
point as well, there were only two
white people in my class and the
other 23 people were from different
countries coming in. When we are
saying that there is not a balance,
it is not just race. There are so
many other factors and we need to be
mindful of that. Race, gender,
background you come from, your
family's values, everything. Plus in
eight years, I have not faced racism
one bit. I am not from a privileged
background at all. I have not faced
racism one bit. I have not come from
a privileged background. I had to
pay for my education, three times
more than the home students pay. I
am a paying member of the society
for the last seven years and I will
be employed by a respectable company
and I have a white boyfriend. It is
that kind of thing! You need to look
at it from a wider mindset. I am not
saying racism is not there. Of
course it is there. But think about
it comparatively. Living in India
for 22 years, I have seen a lot
It is, it's a caste system, and it
is based on privileged and not
privileged families. You cannot say
it is not racist,.
frustrating about this discussion is
that we are presenting anecdote as
evidence. I think it is a dangerous
thing to do. For instance, you said
the generation did not experience
racism, what about a novel the
Lonely Londoners, a whole experience
about racism. Think about the
writing of Claudia Jones.
She is a
journalist, it is an anecdote.
saying there is a whole counter
history. Give me one second... If we
look at how economic inequalitys are
functioning in society it is
exacerbating racial inequalities. We
have seen an increase in statutory
homelessness across the board, a 9%
increase in statutory homelessness
for white people but 91% for Asian
people. We've seen growth in youth
unemployment which outstripped
unemployment for white people. When
it fell for white people it grew for
people of colour. When we talk about
race, I don't really care about
interactions, I really don't care
about talking about who has been
mean to me. What I care about isn't
what people say to me but what
people pay me. When we draw together
an analysis of race and class we
stop looking at competing interests
between white working class people
and working class people of colour.
We look at shed technologies of
Let's get some numbers,
it was about 2% of the population
went. I went on holiday and I had a
great time. Now it is not the case.
Those days have gone.
But let me tell you, the graduation
numbers and the higher education
minister would probably back me on
this, in terms of real numbers of
graduates coming out of
universities, the ethnic minority
level is higher than it has ever
been, real-time. What you've got to
look at, then let me tell you about
numbers in terms of educational
achievements. The groups that were
traditionally failing in the past,
the shift is moving in a completely
different direction. We have
I'm afraid that
isn't true. That is factually
Let me finish, we have
groups around castes, I would say.
West African girls are outstripping
everybody, in real numbers. I work
for Haringey at the moment, we are
doing a project and the numbers for
those West African girls are
outstripping everybody. They are
Why is that
Because we are now in a
situation where we are looking at
almost a group that has a migrant
mentality, similar to the wind rush
mentality that looks at education
and the achievement and parents,
this is quite important. The work
that I did was one of the reasons
why the group, particularly
Afro-Caribbean boys, why they failed
so much. We never looked at that, we
were looking at race. We never
looked at the subculture.
Specifically what was going wrong in
the family. Now we have a real
comparison, other West African
cousins are doing much better than
Just blame the family...!
This is part of the problem with a
Was it a
Yes, I'm sorry.
Let me look at the evidence. The
problem is the schools, not the
families. Even universities.
Celebrate this wonder. In the
schools, go to graduation and you
are less likely to get a first or a
2:1 if you are not white. Take your
qualification that you are so happy
about in the job market committee
still cannot get a job.
Can I ask
something? Is there a danger that we
are constantly focusing on race like
this and it alienates some people
and some people think, actually, the
British Empire and the appalling
genocide of the Atlantic slave
trade, it has nothing to do with me?
And they feel a finger is being
pointed at them because they are
white? There are other Empires as
well. This is what human beings do.
Let me ask the
Then you can have a go at
me, human beings subjugate each
other. If we look through history,
the Soviet empire, the Arab empire,
the Ottoman Empire, the Nigerian
Empire, precolonial, Zimbabwe Empire
with Colonial. It is the in group,
it is the outgroup. It isn't unique
to white people over the last 400
This is the whole problem
with this discussion. Rome has gone.
Slavery and colonialism still
legacy, when slavery ends you have
Clooney is, neocolonialism and
racism. Black people in this country
are still disadvantaged -- you have
colonialism. You cannot just ignore
the problem and say, it was in the
The problem with using terms like
"Whiteness" and saying that we are
stuck in 400 years of history, it is
a counsel of despair. It says
nothing will ever change and nothing
can be done. It is juvenile.
Why is it juvenile?
It is arrested
at a point from which you cannot
shift. It is racist. What can white
people do about their whiteness?
have some suggestions about what
white people can do...
What can you
ask your white colleagues to do?
I blame them for whiteness, what do
I expect from them? What can Britain
do to get rid of its whiteness?
is sad, because I think actually we
all want the same things. I think we
all want a society in which we
function on a meritocracy where it
is not classed based in
discrimination, gender-based, I'm
confident we all want that. But the
issue of race is faced with a unique
hostility. If I said anti-Semitism
is on the rise in Britain, which it
is, I cannot imagine any of you
shouting me down saying it
encourages a victim mentality in
We have that debate
two weeks ago.
I'm invested in this
country, I live here. But the issue
with race is that we are presenting
facts that show we have a problem.
If you take the blame, if you take
whiteness out the equation, I do
think whiteness is important, by the
way, we have problems. Why is it so
difficult to sit and have a
conversation about how we overcome
those problems? You can't do that if
you pretend they don't exist.
course we want to overcome those
problems but you cannot do that with
a complex problem with simplistic
I agree, but...
saying is Britain racist, we should
be saying it isn't racist, I'm from
an immigrant family myself, the
question is, are some people in
Britain racist, and what should we
do about it?
I want to pick up on
something that you said, we cannot
take whiteness out of the
What does that mean?
From personal experience I think a
lot of white people don't understand
whiteness. I grew up thinking
whiteness was normal and neutral.
Ethnic minority identities were
something else. They were other,
they were alien. Whiteness was
constructed, like blackness.
Whiteness was construct it for the
imperial project of making British
people believe it was justifiable to
conquer and roll other countries
because Brown is, blackness, it was
savage. This is fact. That's recent
history, my mother was born in the
Empire, she was born in a colony.
Many of us here have parents born in
a colony where it was over ideology.
We have all inherited it. I want us
to understand this -- over ideology.
For a start, the whole race
identity, particularly in the USA,
the ideological stance they had, and
in South Africa, that was a more
rigid idea of race compared to what
was floating around in the UK. It
was a post hock rationalisation. In
Britain itself, it was a lot looser
than in the US. That adoption of the
US centric model, I feel it on
myself, I know my family's concept
of racism is completely different.
And in terms of what they thought on
race in India would have been
different in their towns and
villages because their concept of
racism was not accepted. They were
humanists in the first place. It was
outright rejected. The idea that
somehow I have to accept this
concept of race now,... That is the
You are right to say there
isn't a single colonial relation,
there are multiple relations. You
look at Britain's Empire, it wasn't
just between white and black. You
had an Asian petty bourgeoisie in
I'm talking about
Give me a second. So
you have multiple colonial relations
and it plays out in how race works
in this country. That's why you do
not have a strict binary of race the
same way we find in the US. That
doesn't mean we didn't have
institutionally racist policies
which endure to this day. Except it
is under the auspices of colour
blind ideology. Being the right to
rent policy, since it was brought
in, criminalising landlords who let
to undocumented migrants, 44% of
landlords have said this has made
them less likely to let properties
to those that they perceive to be
migrants. It's the colour of your
skin. So here we have a racist
It is not a racist policy,
that's the point. It has a racist
outcome but the policy itself was
not designed to be racist. It's an
unintended consequence of something.
It can be racist if it is not
intended to be racist...
Hang on a
second. Hang on a second.
denying the facts in front of your
Let me take a step back and
just... OK, in the audience? Anyone?
Here it comes... Good morning!
morning. What I wanted to say is
that when I first heard the French
parliament had out ruled the word
because there was no such thing as
"Race", I felt a rush of relief
because I too was carrying that
around, that I belonged to a race
and it is scientifically not true. I
feel like if more people, if this
becomes common knowledge, we then
take away the Cushing from under the
That is the message of the
Cheddar Man, in a sense?
We can do
that. It was a stroke of genius, I
feel, for the French parliament to
France has no idea about
the level of racism... Kehinde
France has no idea about
the level of racism... Kehinde, kind
of on that point.
On the palate of
pigmentation, where does it stop? It
is a social construct, isn't it,
can't you self identify? And why
white, my black?
It isn't about
identity, France is a perfect
example. It's probably one of the
most racist countries in Europe. To
say we don't see race, it makes no
difference, we talk about identity
and funny, whiteness isn't an
identity, it is a politics. You can
be Asian or black and have this
psychosis of whiteness. I will say
this, if we are presenting very
clear evidence that there is racism,
and your answer is, let me finish...
Let him finish, Tarjinder
and your answer is, let me finish...
Let him finish, Tarjinder, please.
Every statistic surrounding race is
terrible. There are two answers. One
is racism and the other is that
white people are superior and that
is why there is so much privilege.
Considering it is a racist argument,
you probably don't want to go there!
you probably don't want to go there!
Kehinde, can black people be racist?
Yes, we can reinforce these ideas
yes. It's about the system, not
about like or dislike.
people be racist towards white
It isn't an individual
thing, that is the worst way to
think about racism. It is about the
structure and the ideology, the
system and those things. Not about
whether you don't might Asian
people, that is not the question.
one hand you talk about nuance, then
the blanket term of whiteness.
And if I don't agree with you, I'm
Ash, start again.
Why is it
that white people hate hearing the
word they invented for themselves?
They invented for themselves?
true. If you look at it, it was
invented in the slavery feels.
it is a monolith, everybody thinking
the same way.
Historically it is a
fact. It is a fact. If you look
at... Recently, The Invention Of The
It is an anecdote.
a history book. You can't call it an
anecdote. All human knowledge is an
anecdote. This is the well
researched historical book which
looks at the codification of
whiteness in legal terms. This was
basically invented to justify
horrific practices on the
plantations. And to justify a system
of political economy. When we say
that something is a social construct
that doesn't just mean it is fake.
It has real outcomes but it means it
can be unpicked through social
processes and that is what we are
talking about. I think we need to
start talking about what those
social processes that can unpick the
structure of whiteness at what they
might look like.
What about the
working class people in this country
who have been oppressed for so many
years by the same people who had the
plantations? They are not in that
monolith of evil white people.
am talking about class solidarity
which is important.
racism is bad for everybody. It was
used to justify black and Asian
people's inferiority. And it was
used to persuade white working class
people to accept horrific conditions
on the basis of inherited
inferiority. This is history and I
am pleased to say there are many
academics in the mainstream who
recognise this. This discussion is
not reflective of the level of
progress we have made, thank God. If
we were still here debating whether
whiteness exists, we would be so far
behind there would be no hope.
need to find some road ahead. How do
we head towards a better society,
are less racist society?
want to go there.
wanted to be bad. He needs it to be
bad and I will tell you why. Because
his politics around recognition, in
order to be recognised, in order to
justify the ideas that he has, he
needs the sense that he will always
be a victim. Apparently it is bad.
That is bad for black people and
working class white people and I
will tell you why. What it doesn't
understand is where there is
progress, where there is agency,
where there is the ability to
change, where there is the ability
to go into yourself and make a
difference, that has been the power
that took us off the plantations in
the first place.
You can have agency
and politics at the same time. They
A lot of young people will
believe that they can't progress
because there is an ideology out
Can I come to you for the
change incarceration rates. We
cannot inspire our way out of
Let me ask... Wait a
minute, everybody. You are doing it
again. Let me ask you the question.
Not responded to him but the
question that brings us to a
conclusion. What do white people
need to do?
I think those comments
are ironic given that there are some
people because they are black and
they say what white people want to
hear, they get a platform.
not me. What do white people need to
My politics is all about what do
we need to do and how we need to
organise and resist. There are
plenty of things that we can do.
what do white people need to do?
think there are policies that are
winnable and we can work together
towards them. We get rid of the
hostile environment immigration
policy which turns
policy which turns doctors,
teachers, landlords, into border
guards. We can get rid of that.
lot of other minority people are
against immigration at the level
that we have.
The last of the boat
syndrome. If you assimilate into a
racist ideology, you think you can
benefit from it but that is a load
of rubbish. People of colour need to
express more solidarity with each
other. At the things we can do is
address incarceration rates by
looking at non-custodial solutions
to non-violent crime. And a third
thing we can do, look at ethnic
minority education grants which have
since been got rid of under the
Conservative government. That was
effective at reducing the attainment
gap. And we can look at those types
of grants to look at geographical
disparities, class disparities,
things that overall benefit
There are things you
don't take into account. Ethnicity
is something you don't take into
I am so sorry. We have got
to finish that debate because we
have got more to discuss but it
segues into education quite nicely.
segues into education quite nicely.
Afua, it is a wonderfully
provocative book very interesting,
Brit-ish, and I appreciate you
coming to talk about it. A lot of
people spoke. People might not agree
with it but it is worth breeding
because it gets you thinking and
there is nothing wrong with that. --
it is worth rereading it.
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the hashtag bbctbq.
Tell us what you think
about our last big question too.
Is the higher education
system fit for purpose?
And if you'd like to apply to be
in the audience at a future show you
can email [email protected]
We're in Leicester next week,
then Bath on February 25th,
and Edinburgh the week after that.
That is my hometown. Oh, dear! I
Now that students are getting
in debt to the tune of up to £50,000
for a university education,
they are being far more critical
of exactly what they have bought.
This week, one Oxford history
graduate lost his bid to sue
the university because
he didn't get a first.
We heard about that earlier from one
of our audience contributors.
He blamed negligently inadequate
teaching and said this has had
a marked deleterious effect
on his subsequent legal career.
And students are demanding
compensation if their lecturers take
industrial action later this month.
tutorials and seminars
might blight their future
chances, they're arguing.
A university education is now
something young people invest
in heavily expecting a good return.
But on Monday, Robert Halfon, chair
of the Education Select Committee,
said the returns were now paltry
and between a fifth and a third
of students ended up in jobs that
didn't require a degree
in the first place.
Yet swathes of British industry says
it can't find the people
with the skills it needs
for the future.
Is the higher education
system fit for purpose?
Robert, you are here. Excellent. I
was very lucky. I got a grant. I'd
went to university and those are
very different days. Why is it not
fit for purpose now?
third and a fifth of students are
not getting good graduates skilled
jobs at the moment. We face the rise
of the robots. 28% of jobs done by
young people will be lost to robots
by 2030. How universities are not
doing enough on skills. We need to
do a lot more on apprenticeships. We
do not have enough disadvantaged
people getting into the best
universities and getting good job
outcomes at the end.
Is it all about
It must be about the
skills because we have the march of
the robots coming. We have a huge
problem in our country. We should be
putting money into apprenticeships
and degree apprenticeships and
withholding money from universities
who don't offer those. It is a shame
that we are approximate and Oxford
will not offer degree
apprenticeships. Cambridge have
announced an apprenticeship
programme only last week. We need to
dramatically change how we think
about higher education.
entirely about preparing young
people for the world of work? Isn't
it about expanding young people's
mines and giving them an experience?
Of course but if you want an
experience, go to Alton Towers.
What university must
be about his intellectual
development and preparing you for
the world of work and skills because
that is the world we are about to
We have had some lines on
this programme over the years.
would like to make it very clear
that I agree with Robert that this
country needs to invest much more
heavily in apprenticeships. But it
isn't necessarily universities who
should be providing them. I would
also like to pick up on a point
which seems to me to be a
contradiction in Robert's speech,
which I have had the pleasure to
read. He talks about automation
removing a lot of jobs. Precisely
the kind of skills we need for we
don't know what they will be, the
jobs in the future, problem-solving
of kinds we can't imagine, it is the
mental agility that what you call
scathingly a full academic degree,
it is a mental agility that a degree
gives you, the scrutiny of sources,
production of your perception of
your own capacities and knowledge to
zero and then building back up
through the challenging of your
assumptions. It doesn't matter that
much what the subject is. And being
a Renaissance studies scholar, I am
often told it is airy fairy nonsense
but it is not the subject. When
students come to my seminars, they
think they will not be interested in
16th century culture but they are
fascinated by the processes. What is
true and what isn't? It is skills,
those are skills. Tell me what the
employer skills are?
intellectual involvement in every
single degree you do. But where we
have a big problem in our country is
we are way behind, and this has been
going on for years, we are behind
many other countries in skills.
are the skills?
are the skills?
engineering, health care,
technology. We are about to face a
huge amount of automation and we
need to transform education system
to reflect that. All degrees,
including yours, every degree gives
people intellectual development as
you have described. But we need to
change the system to make sure that
our younger people can get to the
education and opportunities and job
prospects that they need but also
that the country needs.
I would just
like to come back to Nicky's point
because you say it is about job
security. One of the reports
produced by Nick's organisation
recently talks about which students
go into higher education and what
for. We talk about an impoverished
view of it, the only value being
financial benefit, which is an
individual benefit. But higher
education has been shown in a report
a while back called Too Good To
Fail, it has shown that are highly
educated populace Scott Speed is not
just to the prophet of the country
but its social cohesion, the lack of
prejudice in a country as well. That
takes us back to the earlier point.
Your view of education is very
limited. It seems to only be about
jobs. But students themselves in
this report say that we go in for
fascination. For enjoyment. For
You are taking a £50,000
alone. What is the purpose if you
don't want a good job at the end?
That is why students go to
Let me bring Matteo in.
He has come to talk about this and I
want to give him a chance to do so.
And of people want to contribute.
80% of kids in Singapore go to
university and it is working for
It is a different set-up. It
is more about the universities
themselves and the way they market
themselves that what they deliver.
Not too long ago the university was
free and you went for that reason,
to expand your mind and understand
more about your subject, whatever it
may be. Fine, yes, but nowadays with
tuition fees, it has become more
about employment and that is what
universities sell themselves as.
Come to university, get a degree and
a job and move on, and that is not
the case. We have been lied to in
that respect. Universities have not
That isn't right. We
have been lied to and it came from
the Tony Blair days principally. I
believe that was partly due to
getting people often employment
list. Let's say he has pure views
and it was about getting people into
What would you say to a
young, working-class man or woman.
Answer this and
then finish your point. It comes
from what you have just said. What
would you say to a young working
class man or woman who might be the
first person of his or her family
ever to get to university? Might
they be wasting their time?
your point and I say that is
irrelevant. What is relevant is that
the person takes the right fit for
their future life. What is the point
of going to university and ending up
with a to: or 2:2 which might be
challenged by their employer? I've
interviewed thousands of graduates
and I look at their character and
personality and if they have got a
2:2 they have got to explain to me
why they spent five years going
through A-levels and a degree only
to get a 2:2. Where is the sense of
achievement? How do they demonstrate
to me with a 2:2 just from their
education that they are actually
worth coming into my business.
Higher education is like marriage,
it works out for most people most of
the time. There are a few people for
whom it does not work out. Going to
university earns you more money
makes you less likely to become
There are a lot of
people it doesn't work for.
I want to hear from Nick.
long list of benefits. They are not
all financial. You earn more, you
are more likely to have a well-paid
job. You are more likely to have
better mental health if you have
been to university and engaged in
your local community. You are less
likely to go to prison and live
longer. Many people meet their life
partners. I met the mother of my
children at university and my wife.
That may not necessarily be because
they went to university, there may
be other factors. It may not be
cause and effect.
comparisons, they take people who
could go to university but have
chosen not to and they compare them
to people who have been. You did
well going to university, the member
parliament has, I have. University
works out for most people most of
the time. I agree with many of the
things that Robert Halfon and the
rest of his committee does, I agree
with a lot of what he says but he is
slightly forgetting a modern
university, we are in Oxford, it
doesn't just have Oxford University
but they have Oxford Brookes where
they train nurses and teachers,
But why should they not
offer apprenticeships? You earn
while you learn and you have no
debt. You get the skills that John
is talking about.
Let's hear from
the gentleman in the T-shirt.
morning. I am shocked by what you
awful. Every single person deserves
to go and do a degree and it is up
to that person to have the drive to
go and get that job. Even if it
means going to other jobs that they
don't want to do until they get them
back. So long as they have focus and
drive they will get there. You
should be focusing on discouraging
people from going and getting
degrees and brainwashing them into
thinking that they should just go
and get any job. You should think
about getting agriculture bringing
the YTS scheme back, a modern
version where people go and finish
school and go into a vacation, for
example, maybe it is electricity or
plumbing, building, or even retail.
I work in retail myself. You should
be looking at doing that. Not
discouraging people from going to
university. And trying to blame
teachers and universities.
take it to the audience a bit.
morning. Debbie Williams. I didn't
go to university and we did really
well. We currently employ 24 people,
six of whom are apprentices. There's
a massive skills gap in the current
market and I believe people can go
to university of that is what they
choose and I believe apprenticeships
play a big part in meeting our
So far we have focused on the idea
of the student has a customer.
That's a really unhealthy model for
thinking about education. Since the
£9,000 fees came in, there's been a
0.5 increase in dropout rates. They
are having to work while they do a
degree. Their workloads increase and
they are beset with economic
anxiety. Let me raise a point about
what university is like as an
employer. For my sins I am also a
lecturer in politics at Anglia
Ruskin. I'm proud to work in this
job but because of the contract I am
on, it works out that I am earning
sometimes under the minimum wage of
I have a lot of marking. We talk
about the quality of teaching but
you cannot get back kind of quality
-- that kind of quality on the cheap
but the vice Chancellor 's play has
skyrocketed. These conditions don't
rust effect academic staff, they
affect cleaners, porters, security,
catering staff. Rather than looking
at an education that is something
extracted by students as customers
by unwilling and incompetent
academics, let's look at unequal pay
structures in universities, and how
it negatively affects anyone who is
At the moment, I feel
like I am on my own in this world. I
should be the Minister for money or
whatever for the government.
I run a
charity. Chancellor of the
Exchequer? Minister for Money!
Hundreds of students are put into
universities from disadvantaged
backgrounds. We use the Chelsea
football club model. Where students
begin with us when they are aged 14.
We have a relationship with the
university that means they adopt
them, and we work through them and
then they are attached to the
university and they get through on
that basis. For me, I think the
problem is that we are confusing two
things. I think the
things. I think the issue with
skills surrounds science and that
area. Convincing our young people
that that is an area they should go
into. Universities have to change
that game, it has to be one where
they are engaging students at a
younger level. This private school,
where we are in the studio at the
moment, it looks like a Cambridge
college. Our state schools do not
reflect that. There is a
disadvantage in the routes that we
have, getting to those top
I agree, I came to
Oxford from a comprehensive, and as
an academic, I will take the floor
for a second, my family two
generations ago were miners, I am a
success in that sense but
universities do need to engage lower
down, but we are. I am the Access
Officer, I hate that word, it
suggests normal people from state
schools are abnormal in a way that I
have worked with ten-year-olds. We
inspire early on. Could I move onto
Robert's point and the lady in the
audience? We all agree that this
country desperately needs to invest
in apprenticeships, no question. But
on Robert's proposal of imposing in
his ideal up to 50% of degrees in
universities is being degree
apprenticeships, that's a bit
problematic. If you are a young
student who lends technical skills,
great. Follow that route.
Absolutely. But I am slightly
worried by the fact that Rob thinks
he is helping particularly
underprivileged kids by
apprenticeship skills. You are
shutting down the possibility for
that kid to be a judge or a lawyer.
Some points from the audience now?
Thank you., is higher education fit
for purpose? We need to rewind it
back and say, is education fit for
purpose? Take it back to secondary
schools. I firmly believe that your
passions and abilities are in your
early teenage years. They were for
me and they were not exploited. It
was a generation ago, as you can
probably tell, they may be better,
that's cool, now, but people can
concentrate on their abilities a lot
younger. You should be asking
questions at universities about your
abilities and interests. I'm a
self-made man. My education didn't
help me in that at all. I've done it
You are a
self-made man costume at
is vital to society. I absolutely
agree, who couldn't? But there is
more to life than university. What
we need to do is identify young
people's skills as early as
possible, somebody mentioned the YTS
scheme, I had a lot of YTSs in my
business which allowed them to find
out what job they wanted to do. We
need to put a lot more effort into
identifying people's skills, playing
to those skills and encouraging them
down the right route. Whether that
is university, to develop into
professional careers like judges and
lawyers and so one, or whether it is
skills. Whether it's a plumber or an
engineer. Only give you an
Am afraid we don't have
time. We are running out of time.
I said, all degrees ensure
intellectual development which is
important but with the march of the
robots and with the skills we need
for the future, we need to change
how we look at things. In terms of
apprenticeships, about 25% of
apprenticeships come from the
poorest of areas in the country.
They are incredible educational
lands of opportunity. For many
people. You do apprenticeships,
there are legal apprenticeships,
there are a prince ships for every
single thing. We need to change how
we think of our system and the
skills we have.
Wait a minute, we
need to change...
We are talking
about education and university as if
it is the be all and end all of
education. The idea that a degree is
the pinnacle of where you can get.
Not at all, I said there were many
We are thinking
about other routes for kids.
in the audience mentioned secondary
schools. When you go to secondary
schools, the only option that you
were often given by the careers
adviser was University or working in
a menial job. You are never given a
myriad of options.
myriad of options.
And amused by
this conversation. John's company
needs accountants, those who made
the telephones, designers, many of
whom have been to university. Nobody
is saying 100% of people should go
to university, and saying 70% but
nobody is saying 100%. For a lot of
people it isn't the right thing. But
we do need the best apprenticeships.
They now end with a degree. The
final destination is the same place.
Not a degree in Renaissance
What an easy Dick there!
I argued very strongly for the
-- that was an easy dig there. I
argued very strongly for the mental
I feel bad now, I actually
agree, I was just poking around!
agree, I was just poking around! I
did history. Useless! Have a cup of
coffee afterwards. Felt hurt.
all right, I can cope with it!
all right, I can cope with it!
snowflakes. That is the problem,
I don't think we have the
time to get into that discussion!
John Cooney you
-- John Cone you said you would give
an example? I was lucky, I had an
apprenticeship and it was a
phenomenal experience, through to
working on the factory, the day
an two nights a week I had to really
I had a qualification in that
work time. I came out fully
qualified. What better way to train!
Thank you for joining us, Leicester
next week. Thank you so much. Have a
great Sunday! APPLAUSE