Boris Johnson - A Character that Students Can’t Ignore
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been dubbed ‘the Marmite man’, an ‘irresponsible, self-serving buffoon’ and has been affectionately referred to as the ‘British Trump’ by the President of the United States.
Whether you think this is a fair assessment of him or not, his actions as leader of the United Kingdom are going to impact all students’ lives, for the better or the worse.
Oxford educated Boris Johnson has long been a supporter of increasing university funding and helping improving access to university for people from different backgrounds. In 2006 he gave a speech to right-wing think tank Politeria stating that:
“Education is by far the best natural solvent of social rigidities, and we all need to think carefully and imaginatively about…how we can use workshops and other techniques pioneered by the Sutton Trust to rope in those non-traditional students.”
Boris Johnson has pledged to raise per-pupil spending in secondary and primary schools. Increasing the funds per-pupil could lead to higher levels of education, which could contribute to more people from disadvantaged areas being able to access higher education. He’s also looking to lower the interest rate on student debts which could save graduates thousands of pounds if implemented.
However, Boris Johnson’s cabinet is one of the least diverse cabinets for years, 75% of his cabinet are privately educated, only 18% are BAME, only 25% are female MPs and there aren’t any LGBT MPs. Despite Johnson’s Politeria speech and comments since, his cabinet does not reflect a modern Britain at all.
This throws into question whether or not he’ll actively work to improve social mobility in the UK.
A rise of non-traditional university routes?
The Prime Minister is a strong believer that apprenticeships can offer ‘futures as bright as any university graduate’ and says apprentices are ‘indispensable to the future of the country’. As Mayor of London, he launched a campaign to create 20,000 apprenticeships, hitting the target three months early.
He continues to voice his support of increasing apprenticeship funding. This could potentially reduce the numbers of students going to university via the traditional route, in favour of degree apprenticeships which are growing in popularity.
“Let’s give our NHS the £350million the EU takes every week”
The famous bus emblazoned with a lie. Despite retracting his earlier statement, Johnson continues to discuss how one of his main priorities is the NHS, proclaiming that it is ‘[his] job to make sure you don’t have to wait three weeks to see your GP’.
If Johnson makes good on this promise, then he’ll help to improve students’ mental health and increase NHS funding. Currently one in four students suffer from mental health problems, with some students waiting up to four months to see a counsellor. Reducing the wait time and improving support on offer can help thousands of students, helping to prevent them from dropping out of university, and could possibly save some students’ lives.
The Brexit Effect
According to Boris Johnson, by hell or high water, we’re leaving the EU by October 31st, with or without a deal. Currently Johnson’s central plan revolves around leaving without a deal, if that happens international students and study abroad programs will be heavily impacted.
Over 150 institutions have written to MPs calling no-deal one of the biggest threats the university sector has ever faced. With universities believing it could contribute largely to the financial failure of at least 10 UK Universities.
In the event of a no-deal Boris Johnson will have to secure funding previously given from the EU, and work to ensure Europeans and students from around the world continue to study abroad in the UK, otherwise universities will change as we know them.
Currently 53% of UK students who study abroad study through the ERASMUS scheme in Europe. Over 16,500 UK students participated in overseas programmes, with 31,727 EU nationals coming to the UK in 2016-17. As the mayor of London, he said that ‘the UK should strongly welcome foreign students’, and has since spoken about improving international work visas after students have finished studying.
Yet with a no deal, the ERASMUS programme would cease to exist in its current form. This would make studying abroad in Europe a lot more expensive, less accessible, and will reduce the number of European universities that UK students can study abroad at.
To find a university course that offers a study abroad year in Europe or overseas head over to University Finder.
Over the next few months Boris Johnson’s focus will on Brexit. We will have to wait and see whether his other policy pledges bare fruit.