Yes (Student) Minister!

Jason Taitz 25 October 2007

Former Cambridge postgrad David Triesman has been appointed minister for students in a bid to enhance student representation in Westminster, the government has announced.

Lord Triesman, who was awarded a peerage in 2004, is a former student radical who was suspended from the University of Essex in 1968, for leading protests against a talk by a military scientist from Porton Down. He, along with two other undergraduate ‘ringleaders’, were later reinstated.

Now minister for students, Lord Triesman said that the government planned to talk more to students, as a crucial part of its “programme of listening.” He said: “We need students to tell us how higher education is working for them and what more can be looked at to make things better.”

The new minister will visit universities all over England, meeting students to gain a first-hand understanding of their unique needs and problems.

An independent National Student Forum is to be created to advise the government on matters affecting universities, and will be charged with the task of preparing an annual report to Parliament.

Over the next couple of months, five ‘student juries’ will be recruited from across the country to begin debating topics such as student finance, widening participation and learning support.

They will report back both to the National Student Forum and directly to ministers. The ‘juries’ are intended to be as representative as possible, encompassing the views of full and part-time undergraduates and postgraduates, as well as international and disabled students.

President of the National Union of Students, Gemma Tumelty, said that she was “delighted” with the government’s new initiative.

“For far too long students have been out in the cold when it comes to decisions about their futures… This could give students the ability to advise Ministers on the formation of policy at the highest level,” she commented.

Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Dehnham, said: “This will mean that for the first time students’ voices are heard at the heart of government.”

Lord Triesman completed his postgraduate studies at King’s College, Cambridge, and in 2000 was elected a Visiting Fellow at Wolfson College, specialising in ‘Higher Education in the Economy’.

Jason Taitz