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13th October 2006 Lorna Shaddick

Exonians Quiz Bill Rammell

On Wednesday 11th October, Bill Rammell, Labour MP for Harlow and now the Minister for Higher Education, visited Exeter College for a fascinating evening of discussion and debate. Following a High Table dinner in Hall, during which Mr Rammell was able to meet some graduate students as well as members of the SCR, the minister fielded challenging questions from an extremely keen undergraduate and graduate audience who certainly made the most of their opportunity for discussion. After a brief introduction outlining his vision for higher education in the future, which included advocating post- qualification application to university, Mr Ramell was questioned on educational issues ranging from the inevitable top-up fees (which he deemed necessary in order for British universities to remain internationally competitive) to higher A-level pass rates, a phenomenon he painted in a positive light, saying those pupils gaining three A’s in the sixth form this year were no less able to benefit from university life than those who did so in the past. Mr Rammell spoke in addition of the need to stimulate more of a US-style endowment process in order to help higher education institutions struggling for funds, and was also keen to point out the recent success of vocational qualification schemes. The minister provided a memorable chance for Exonians to take on one of those most directly responsible for the system in which they are educated. Their rapid-fire questioning from the floor certainly displayed as keen an appetite for debate as for Formal Hall food!

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