On Wednesday 26th August 2020, the Prime Minister visited the Loughborough University campus. The visit hosted by Loughborough University, gave Boris Johnson the opportunity to learn more about the University’s world-leading research and hear of some of the issues impacting on higher education.
As part of the visit, Boris Johnson requested the opportunity to meet with the LSU Executive Team to discuss the work our student volunteers do (at both a local and national level), and to view the work that has been done across the University to ensure our campus is as safe as possible for the return of our students in the coming weeks.
More importantly, the visit provided a key opportunity for the Executive Team to begin a conversation that was centred around key issues facing the Higher Education sector. These included: wellbeing support for students returning to campus following the COVID-19 pandemic; the Black Lives Matter movement; academic misconduct and the current legality of essay mills as well as the current government’s stance on niche activism.
The meeting that the University, the Executive Team and I had with the Prime Minister on the 26th August provided an initial platform for these conversations. However, the LSU Executive Team met earlier today to discuss how we will be continuing these conversations at the highest level in the coming weeks. We have since written a letter to the Prime Minister expressing our desire and intention to meet at a roundtable discussion in London to re-commence the dialogue which began yesterday to ensure we see:
- Essay mill companies made illegal – significantly reducing the chance of students being exploited and more susceptible to charges of academic misconduct;
- Increased funding for services to support students’ wellbeing as they return to a post-COVID campus;
- Black Lives Matter: the government to reconsider its stance in the sending of rubber bullets and riot equipment to support police responses in the USA.
In addition to the above, we are also in the process of organising a meeting with Jane Hunt (Member of Parliament for Loughborough and Cabinet Office Minister) to discuss how we can tangibly improve the experience of both students on the Loughborough campus and those within the town. This invitation has been extended to Michelle Donelan (Minister of State for Universities) to discuss how the government can better support Student Unionism and activism within the HE Sector, with particular reference to the topics outlined above.
I believe, that the opportunity for elected officers to engage with the highest officials within the UK Government, to start formal discussions about the above matters that will improve the student experience is not one that should be turned down. While I completely understand that at times it is difficult or impossible to differentiate a person from their role, I believe that for real change to be made it is necessary to engage in an open dialogue with those who can make wide-spread change.
The meeting with the Prime Minister on the 26th August was the first in a series of conversations that the University, Executive Team and I hope to have with Senior Government Officials and I will ensure that on every occasion we will continue to raise issues that affect all those who are apart of the Loughborough Community.