Clarke is quizzed over plans

March 14, 2003

Education secretary Charles Clarke faced criticism from students and academics in Newcastle this week on the first leg of a round-Britain tour to promote his controversial white paper proposals.

The idea was to gather feedback from the 150 or so invited guests from businesses, schools, universities and colleges in the region. Except not everyone was invited. The student union presidents of Sunderland and Northumbria universities were contacted by the BBC seeking their reactions to the event, which neither of them knew about.

Karen Wilson, president of Sunderland SU, quizzed Mr Clarke on student hardship, but she said: "He fobbed us off with more spin."

Kel Fidler, vice-chancellor of Northumbria University, complained to Mr Clarke that the cuts to research funding sent the message to his staff that their work was regarded as second rate.

Mr Clarke replied: "Universities seem to say it is necessary to be involved in world class research to be a world-class teacher but I don't accept that."

But Mr Clarke demonstrated his commitment to the Northeast by praising collaborative efforts of universities in the region that have formed a strong partnership to tackle regional issues.

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