Minister crashes and burns live on GMB as even Richard Madeley realises the Tory university caps plan is garbage

Robert Halfon on GMB talking university caps
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A Tory minister showed not only that a contentious government plan has no basis in fact, but also that there is no political talent in the government – as he fell apart live on Good Morning Britain (GMB) when questioned over a controversial new policy on university caps.

University caps: putting a value on education

As Sky News reported, the Tory government is planning to put limits on the number of students taking certain degrees at universities:

The limits will be imposed on courses that have high dropout rates or a low proportion of graduates getting a professional job.

Rishi Sunak’s government is doing this in response to a review launched by former PM Theresa May. Sky News noted that:

Among the report’s recommendations – which also included cutting tuition fees and more funding for further education – was an aim to reduce the number of “low value” courses leaving students with poor job prospects.

Predictably, the government has broadly ignored the cutting tuition fees recommendation – except for classroom-based foundation degrees. However, what the Tories have latched onto is stopping so many students going to university. As the Guardian reported:

The policy will limit student applications in England for the first time since the government scrapped the previous institutional numbers cap in 2015, which set off a surge in applications to selective universities.

Read on...

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Of course, people have kicked off about the plan. Some professionals in higher education have said the policy will hit marginalised students the hardest. Meanwhile, University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady told iNews:

This shows how wrong Tory government’s priorities are. If they get their way only the richest students would be able to study cultural subjects.

Sunak was able to study philosophy, the Tory government should stop trying to deny working class people the same opportunities.

It is clear they have misunderstood the value of learning and the value our members add to society.

With a backlash from the university sector, you’d think education secretary Gillian Keegan would be on TV to defend her government’s plans. However, that would take some semblance of a backbone. So instead, the Tories shoved education minister Robert Halfon on – and as quickly as he arrived he began falling apart.

Halfon: car crash 101

Halfon waffled for what seemed like 10 minutes (but was actually 30 seconds) before host Susanna Reid interrupted him – reminding the minister he hadn’t actually answered her question, which was:

which degrees are you going to cap?

Halfon said it was:

those courses that have poor-quality outcomes.

Reid asked what the definition of a “poor-quality outcome” was. Utterly predictably, the minister couldn’t give a quantifiable answer. He said the courses were those where:

a student doesn’t progress to a good job… [or] doesn’t continue the course… or complete their course.

Co-host Richard Madeley asked Halfon to define a “good job”. The minister had a remarkable answer, showing his keen insight into the complex world of educational outcomes:

if people are doing degrees they should get good jobs at the end.. but there are too many students not getting those jobs… who aren’t completing… dropping out…

So, the Tory definition of a “good job” is a ‘good job’, then. Glad Halfon cleared that up:

Behind the university caps word soup

The minister’s word-soup-with-a-side-of-alphabet-salad responses exposed the problems at the heart of the Tories’ plan. For example, as Sky News reported, the courses with the highest drop-out rates were:

  • Computer science
  • Business and administrative studies
  • Engineering and technology
  • Mass communications and documentation
  • Creative arts and design

But hold up. Sunak himself has in the past 18 months:

Admittedly, the Tories will probably quite happily stifle “mass communications” (namely journalism) and the “creative arts” – given their respective wars on both. But the government also wants to cap three degrees which directly tie into Sunak’s claims.

Of course, the Tories’ plan to cut uni courses is in tandem with their push on further (vocational) education. But they could do both. And moreover, this doesn’t address Halfon’s other claims about “poor-quality outcomes” linked to some degrees. For example, Sky News reported that:

five years after graduation… in the UK, medicine and dentistry had a median graduate earning of £52,900, whereas performing arts stood at £21,200.

Once again, the Tories will be attacking the arts. However, this is not a performing arts degree problem. This is a capitalism problem where people in the creative sectors are not paid enough – like many people doing degrees:

Tory class war continues

The minister’s catastrophic interview – repeating ‘good jobs’ and ‘poor-quality outcomes’ until he nearly blew his sphincter – sums up the state of the government. The Tories are allegedly running the country while having some of the most stupid ministers in government of recent times.

Halfon is a prime example: unable to deviate from his press release (ironically written by someone possibly with a degree in mass communications), he falls apart when even GMB‘s warm and fluffy corporate hacks do some primary school questioning of him:

Most importantly though – and as always – if you pick away at what a Tory minister says and move past the jargon and buzz words, the reality becomes apparent: that the government’s cap on uni courses is class war:

Not that any of this is new. From disabled people to energy prices via housing – at the heart of successive governments’ agendas has been the battering of poor and marginalised people. Stopping us going to university, therefore keeping us out of well-paying jobs, and stopping us learning, is part of the same pattern.

Featured image via GMB – screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. Robert Halfon is such a lightweight that he probably needs lead in his shoes to keep him grounded.
      The remark that when Madely can demolish you in an interview, actually sums up this MP rather well.

    2. Can I summarise completely?

      “Universities are for those only with the right family contacts so can GET a well-paid job afterwards”.

      I was mentioning to someone just a couple of weeks ago, that when the execrable MICHAL GOVE has somehow become one of the best Tory MPs, – and not because of any improvement on HIS part – the “Conservative Party” really has sunk into the gutter of mid-level Corporate exec non-entityness.

      The look of absolute horror on the retired Educationalist’s face – she literally went white – showed this insight is not untrue.

      I suppose those to whom “Education” is merely a path to wealth and power, and that as limited to those born to it as possible, such changes make sense.

      Won’t be long before the real ‘Best minds’ are making their way to Chinese universities. :shrugs:.

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