A Government education minister should “give up his obsession” with Oxbridge and the UK’s Russell Group of universities, a Labour MP has said. The country had more than 130 “fantastic” universities with departments of note, said Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield.
Addressing Schools Minister Nick Gibb during Commons Education questions, Mr Sheerman insisted the Labour administration had raised the numbers going to university during its time in office. Mr Gibb hit back, saying Britain had “some of the best universities in the world” and that the Government wanted to “raise aspiration right across the board”.
Mr Sheerman said: “I wish the minister would give up his obsession with the Russell Group and with Oxford and Cambridge. We have over 130 fantastic universities in this country, some with many, many good departments, better than anything that’s done in Oxford and Cambridge and the Russell Group.
“Could he not have mentioned generously the effort that the Labour government made in raising the number of people in this country who went to university, who, before that Labour administration, had no hope at all.”
Mr Gibb replied: “I agree with him. We have some of the best universities in the world in this country but what we have to do, and I think it’s something that was not necessarily as successful under the last Labour government, is raise aspiration right across the board so we don’t end up with a position where too few students from state schools are going to our best universities, particularly those children who are eligible for free school meals.
“And I’m sorry to mention Oxford and Cambridge again to him, but it is a disgrace that out of 80,000 children who were eligible for free school meals, only 40 achieved Oxbridge places under his government.”