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Following a discussion on the subject of student funding, I thought it time to get in touch with Mr Borrow again, knowing how well he represents my views. And so, I placed this in the big red shiny postbox today:
Dear Mr Borrow,
The average student has sixteen hours of formal teaching time each week. As a medical student, I have thirty-five hours of formal teaching time each week. Where is the logic in providing the same level of student support to all, despite clear disparity in the time available to supplement this support through paid employment?
I look forward to reading your response.
It’ll be interesting to see whether he actually answers the question, as previous experience has shown that he, erm, doesn’t. I’ll let you know the response either way.
Just as an aside… Last time I wrote to the guy to ask him to support an EDM, he said he wasn’t going to sign any whilst acting as a PPS. In fact, I have the very letter on file:
I am currently the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Higher Education Minister, Kim Howells MP. When I was appointed I took the decision that as I was a member of the government, albeit at a very junior level, I would not sign EDM’s.
Strange, then, that during his PPS-ship, his signature appeared on 111 EDM’s. What’s all that about?
Update: 8th July 2006
To his credit, my MP did get in touch with Alan Johnson on my behalf. I was forwarded the reply from Bill Rammell, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education:
Thank you for your letter of 24 May, addressed to Alan Johnson, enclosing correspondence from Mr Simon Howard of (address removed) about the student support arrangements. I am replying as Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education.
I appreciate Mr Howard’s concerns about the difference in the number of contact hours medical students receive in tuition, compared to those on standard degree courses and appreciate why he feels the financial support should depend on the hours of study per week. However, time spent with lecturers will differ for individual students, depending on the type of course they undertake. Mr Howard may not realise that in addition to time spent in lectures and in tuition/contact time, students are also expected to undertake different types of activity. These include a personal study time, working with other students, research and project work. This is to enable students to develop and build upon the work carried out in lecture time and is part of the educational experience and development. As autonomous bodies, institutions are responsible for the service they provide for their students, including the level of contact time.
Nevertheless, I am aware that it is not always possible for some students to supplement their income from part-time employment. That is one of the reasons which we provide additional help through the Access to Learning Funds (sic) to those experiencing financial difficulties during their course. The Fund is administered directly by students’ individual institutions which are best placed to assess students’ circumstances. If Mr Howard has not already done so, he can obtain further information about the application process from the student services at his institution.
I do hope this clarifies the position for Mr Howard.
Bill Rammell MP
So he did quite well, and did seek out an answer to the question.