Student attacks widening access

October 11, 2002

The scale of the task facing Conservative reformers was made apparent in Bournemouth this week when a student delegate revealed the antipathy of some party members to the realities of widening participation in higher education, writes Alan Thomson.

Minutes after Conservative chairman Theresa May told the conference that "radical, fundamental change" was the only option for the party, law student Georgina Hill railed against changes that are under way in higher education.

She told delegates during Monday's education debate: "The first way we can get better universities, improve standards and get a better deal for the taxpayer is to have less universities and offer less obscure and, frankly, worthless degrees. It is not a good idea for people to do Mickey Mouse degrees and get themselves into debt."

Hannah Parker, chairwoman of Conservative Future, the party's youth wing, backed Ms May's call for reform.

She rejected the label of "Mickey Mouse courses" and stressed the importance of widening participation.

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