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Universities Minister visits Birkbeck

Chris Skidmore MP gave a speech on access and participation in HE, as well as visiting Birkbeck’s world-leading BabyLab.

L-R: Jonathan Woodhead (Birkbeck Policy Adviser), Chris Skidmore MP (Universities Minister), Prof David Latchman (Master of Birkbeck)

On Monday 15 July, the Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore MP, visited Birkbeck to hear from staff and students about the benefits of part-time higher education and to learn more about the world-leading research that takes place at the College.

Professor Emily Jones and Leslie Tucker gave Mr Skidmore a tour of the Birkbeck Babylab, where he met some of the children and families taking part in studies, such as the Baby Sibs study which aims to enhance our understanding of early brain changes in children with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.

The Minister also delivered a speech to an audience of Birkbeck students and staff, in which he acknowledged Birkbeck for its leading role in providing flexible learning for mature and part-time students and recognised the important contribution that part-time education makes to individuals, society and the economy as it enables individuals to retrain and reskill throughout their working lives.

Mr Skidmore acknowledged the impact of previous government policies, which have caused part-time student numbers to fall by more than 57% since 2010-11. He committed to dismantle barriers to HE participation for underrepresented groups and to take a whole picture approach to HE, considering student access, experience and transition to the world of work, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to improve their lives and careers through study.

Mr Skidmore said: “Birkbeck plays a vital role in offering people a different kind of higher education – namely through part-time, flexible study, taught in term-time on weekday evenings.

“I am keen that we learn from this flexible, ‘step-on, step-off’ approach to higher education for the future. And I’m here today to see for myself how we can continue to bring down barriers to access, and enable more people to reap the benefits of our world-class universities and colleges.”

Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Minister today, and to give him the opportunity to hear from some of our foremost scientists, as well as families who will benefit from the research that takes place here.

“We were pleased that in his speech the Minister confirmed his recognition of the importance of making part-time education available to all who could benefit from it, including those who - for a wide variety of reasons – may have left school or college without many qualifications. We know that higher education at institutions like Birkbeck has the power to transform lives and careers and we look forward to continuing to work with the Minister to ensure that Government and institutions understand how to ensure people can succeed in HE – whatever their background.”

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