Press Releases

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, to meet with University of Reading students – University of Reading

Release Date : 27 November 2007

Students at the University of Reading will have the chance to take their views to the top when John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), visits Whiteknights campus this week.

Mr Denham will meet students on Thursday (November 29) to discuss a range of issues affecting them as part of a national student listening programme.

The programme, launched in October, aims to give England's 2.3 million university students a voice at the heart of Government and kicked off a series of visits by Mr Denham and his ministerial team to university campuses up and down the country. In Reading, Mr Denham will have the opportunity to hear directly from University of Reading students on a range of issues affecting student life and how it might be improved.

John Denham said: "The University of Reading is home to more than 17,700 students and I am delighted to be meeting a number of them as part of this visit as this is a real opportunity for open discussion. My Ministerial team and I have already been engaging with students up and down the country to hear for ourselves, first hand, their concerns, aspirations and experiences. Students are better able than anyone to tell us what's going right in the higher education system and what needs to be done better."

University of Reading Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Downes, said: "I am sure that Reading students will want to tell the Secretary of State about their high degree of satisfaction with courses and teaching at Reading; and about welcome recent investment by the University in renewing facilities – not least the Students' Union and the Students Services building; in addition to telling him about their understandable concerns over the mounting cost of higher education. Students and staff alike share the view that Reading is a good news story deserving much wider circulation, and we hope John Denham and his team will leave feeling as we do."

Sally Pearman, Reading University Students' Union President said: "Our students are really looking forward to meeting with the minister – I just hope he's coming to genuinely listen and take our views on board. Students get a lot of attention with national initiatives but I hope the government will step up to the challenge of genuinely acting on the student voice. Here at Reading we are very keen to engage with ministers and let our students speak about concerns surrounding increasing student debt, the worrying move towards the private sector role in Higher Education and securing strong futures for our graduates."

The programme of visits by Ministers, which has already included University of York, Queen Mary, University of London and University of Newcastle, was launched as part of a package of initiatives to give students a greater voice. DIUS Minister Lord Triesman was appointed the first Minister for Students and in the run up to Christmas, five 'student juries' will be held made up of students from across the sector looking at high profile issues that matter to them such as student finance, widening participation and learning support. The issues raised in the juries will feed into a National Student Forum, a new and independent body reflecting the diverse student population. The work of the forum will inform Government policy and will include the publication of an annual report to Ministers to which they will respond.

Notes to editors

1. The Secretary of State has limited time available for a question and answer session with media from 11.35am until 12noon at the Carrington Building on Whiteknights Campus. Please contact Lucy Ferguson ( in the press office if you wish to attend.

2. The Student listening programme launched on 18 October consists of:

• Lord Triesman appointed the first Minister for Students, allowing students to be heard at the centre of Government;

• Ministerial visits to university campuses across England with Ministers, meeting students face-to-face to hear their experiences first-hand;

• five 'student juries' made up of students from across the country in the run up to Christmas looking at high profile issues that matter to them such as student finance, widening participation and learning support; and,

• a new independent National Student Forum, reflecting the diverse student population, with the task of informing government policy and publishing an annual report to Ministers and Parliament.

3. University visits

DIUS Ministers are meeting students at universities across the country to hear for themselves about the concerns, aspirations and experiences of students. The aim is for Ministers to consider issues that they may not otherwise have had raised with them. DIUS is already giving consideration as to how issues raised to date are taken forward. Recent visits include Leeds Metropolitan University, Warwick University, York University and Newcastle University, where students were able to question ministers on any aspect of higher education policy.

4. Student Juries

Following the Prime Minister's commitment in September that Government should aspire to find new ways to draw out the wisdom and experience that resides within the British people, to contribute to the policy-making process through informed debate, student juries will do precisely that and will be held in London, Sheffield, Bristol and Manchester. They will ask what a student should expect from their higher education institutions, Government and publicly-funded organisations working in higher education.

5. National student Forum

The National Student Forum will be made up of between 15 – 20 students from across the county and will represent the diversity of the modern student population. DIUS will work with partners from across the HE sector including:

• The National Union of Students;

• The National Postgraduate Committee;

• The Mature Students Union;

• The Open University Students' Association;

• Skill: the national bureau for students with disabilities; and

• The British Council.

The forum will meet at least four times a year and will produce an annual report to government covering its findings and recommendations to inform the development of government policy. The forum will set its own agenda, however Ministers expect that it will cover issues such as value for money, workload and post graduate application process.

Further information, please contact Lucy Ferguson, in the University of Reading press office, on 0118 378 7388, or Emma Griffiths in the DIUS Press Office 020 7215 2566


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