Keynote speech at Brookes by Universities Minister

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Universities Minister David Willetts is visiting Oxford Brookes University today to give his first keynote speech.

Universities Minister David Willetts visited Oxford Brookes to give his first keynote speech on higher education to an audience of university vice-chancellors.

During a wide-ranging talk, Mr Willetts discussed topics such as student employability, teaching standards and the upcoming tuition fees review by Lord Browne.

Student employability, said Mr Willetts, should be paramount. He announced that he will be calling on universities to publish employability statements that summarise what they offer to make graduates job-ready.

Despite the tough economic climate Mr Willetts was positive about the role higher education has to play. There is now a huge demand for university places – up 16 per cent on last year – and the fact there are now 2 million students at universities in the UK is due to the value people see in having a degree: “Young people and adults alike recognise universities as rites of passage that set you up for the future,” he said, adding: “People do also read job adverts requiring graduates.”

Before giving his speech, Mr Willetts had met motorsport engineering students at Wheatley, one of whom was on the scholarship programme backed by Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso. The driver has described the Oxford Brookes course as ‘the best in world’.


Mr Willetts said that course was a model for others to follow. “This is a great example. At Oxford Brookes you can see what a modern university looks like.” He said other universities should look at Brookes, "This is my vision of what universities can do in future.”

He ended his speech by suggesting ways to improve teaching. At the moment, university funding is based on research strengths and not teaching excellence.

“I’m interested in looking at whether some institutions could benefit by linking themselves to an exam board with global recognition.”

He said, “Institutions that choose to offer external exams could deliver robust standards in which employers have confidence from day one.”

For more information on the visit, please log onto the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website.