Robert Halfon praises University of East London “Every university should be like this.”
News / Thu 9th Nov 2023 at 11:20am
MINISTER for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education the Rt Hon Robert Halfon has praised the University of East London (UEL) for its progressive approach to jobs, skills, and mental health.
After hearing about UEL’s actions in supporting students in both their welfare and career aspirations, Harlow MP Mr Halfon said, “Every university should be like this.”
The Minister visited the University’s Docklands Campus on Thursday 2 November, to hear, in particular, about degree apprenticeships and the skills agenda.
A delegation from the University, headed by the Vice Chancellor and President Professor Amanda Broderick, and including students, alumni and academics, offered insights and personal experiences during an informal question and answer session.
The Minister heard how the University now offers 1,600 apprenticeships across 13 courses in four schools, specifically targeting areas where there are notable skills shortages. Professor Broderick was able to tell him that UEL is already exceeding the government’s proposed 2025 target of 67 per cent of completion in apprenticeships – UEL’s rate is 76 per cent, a success attributed in part to strong and engaged industry partnerships and the offer to apprentices of a full university experience.
He also gained an insight into how initiatives such as the “levelling up” Diversity of Thought employer partnership programme, are driving social mobility and diversifying the talent pipeline.
Mr Halfon said, “Throughout my political life, it’s been my passion in politics to champion apprenticeship skills.”
He said, as part of his skills agenda, he had taken action, including changing the law, to ensure that school leavers were informed about apprenticeships, which the degree apprentices in the room had also advocated.
He added, “It’s changing in a big way, but there’s a long way to go.”
Mr Halfon heard from students, including nursing apprentices Shenaid Siley and Tracy Appiagyei, who work with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, and from Eda Eren, who is studying for a Computer Science degree while working as an energy analyst with Siemens.
In the second key theme of the visit, Mr Halfon asked about the University’s practical measures to help support students’ mental health.
The University of East London is only one of five in the UK to be granted the Mental Health Charter Award, created by Student Minds. The award recognises the commitment to continuous improvement in the health and wellbeing of students and staff in line with the Minister’s own call to action.
Summing up, Mr Halfon said, “Everything I’ve tried to do as a minister is to focus on three areas: I’ve always wanted university to be about skills; I wanted it to be about social justice – making sure people from disadvantaged backgrounds can climb the ladder of opportunity and to look after students’ mental health – and to focus on jobs. This is my dream university. It’s been inspirational.”
Afterwards, Professor Broderick said, “We were delighted to host the Minister and to be given the opportunity to showcase our progress in the last five years and our ambitions for the future. His priorities – around skills, apprenticeships, and mental health – are in accord with our own mission to further social justice through education and help deliver a healthy world for the communities we serve.
“We were pleased to present him with strong evidence as well as personal testimony that showed that our dynamic careers-first aspirations and extensive programme of support are working and making a tangible difference to students’ well-being and prospects.”
Mr Halfon told guests that he would be making a speech at the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards in December, noting that the University of East London would be represented, having been nominated in the University of the Year category.
Nice to see Halfon getting back to ministerial business.
Hardest working MP known to man. He is an example for the PM to follow