Brookes students face panel of MPs

Wednesday, 01 April 2009


Six Oxford Brookes students experienced the full glare of the political spotlight when a hard-hitting panel of MPs visited the university.

Six Oxford Brookes students experienced the full glare of the political spotlight when a hard-hitting panel of MPs visited the university.

The politicians have been interviewing staff and students around the UK in a wide-ranging and high profile fact-finding mission into standards.

Vice-Chancellor Janet Beer was also interviewed by the House of Commons Select Committee.

The five-strong Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills (IUSS) Committee questioned Professor Beer, her counterpart from Oxford University, Dr John Hood and academics from both institutions.

The six students were:

  • Jun Rentschler (economics and business)
  • Meagan Pitt (law)
  • Sally Tye (history)
  • Victoria Edwards (midwifery)
  • David Child (engineering)
  • Gregory Andrews (architecture)

The scope of the committee's investigation meant they were able to ask questions on just about any topic.

Banking chiefs, former Labour spin master Alistair Campbell and the BBC's business editor Robert Peston have all famously come under the glare of various select committees in recent years.

Sally Tye told the panel about the quality of the support she receives from the history department with voluntary one-on-one tutorials offered by her course leaders and how it has helped boost her marks: 'You can get an essay question and have a tutorial on it. My grades improved dramatically. And you can have that for every piece of work you do.'

She explained: 'I chose Brookes because of the research rating and I've seen that demonstrated very clearly.'

During a robust 45-minute session, the IUSS Committee members asked both Vice-Chancellors about the purpose of higher education, degree classifications, fees and levels of state school admissions.

On the latter point, Professor Beer told the panel, which includes Dr Evan Harris, MP for Oxford West: 'We have a compact which means students from the local area, particularly from schools in tough, more challenging environments - if they get the grades they get a place. That is, they are not in competition for a place so there are guaranteed places for students if they make the entry grades.'

When asked what a university education offers students, she replied: 'It's the skills that are important. Students have to be marketable for 50 years. Knowledge goes out of date. Skills, capability and flexibility don't.'