As if strikes by lecturers were not already creating a load of controversy around Universities this week, the appointment of David Willetts as the new chancellor of the University of Leicester has hardly made students feel any more satisfied with their university experience. So, let’s get into why David Willetts’ appointment as chancellor is at best a bad PR move, and at worst a slap in the face to every student on campus.
It is important to note that chancellor is very much a ceremonial role, so it is not like Willetts will be running the university on a day to day basis. For the uninitiated Willetts was the Conservative MP for Havant in Hampshire between 1992 and 2015 and numerous shadow cabinet positions prior to the Tories regaining power alongside the Lib Dems in 2010. The more cynical amongst you might think ‘well of course students don’t like him, he’s a Tory’ however Willetts is so unpopular because between 2010 and 2014 he held the position of Minister of State for Universities and Science.
While Nick Clegg often gets thrown under the bus for reneging on his promise to prevent a rise in tuition fees it was very much a promise of David Willetts to raise said fees. During his tenure as Universities minister he oversaw the rise in tuition fees to the current rates – and frankly ridiculous price – of £9,000 per year. It was well documented that student debt was a problem before these fee hikes, however Willetts described the prices as ‘fair and affordable.’ Moreover, this rise in fees has led to a reported 28% increase in students who seek counselling. I think it’s safe to say that David Willetts does not seem like the kind of person who cares at all about the welfare of students, which is hardly ideal given that he is now chancellor of this university.
Unfortunately, it gets even worse from here. In 2011 Willetts said that feminism was ‘the single biggest factor for lack of social mobility in Britain’ and that feminism was effectively denying working class men jobs. How anybody can be espousing anti-feminist speech like this is a bit of a head scratcher to be honest but regardless someone with these views surely cannot sit at the top of the University of Leicester. The HeForShe campaign has such a large presence on campus it seems bizarre that the university can endorse this organisation and have David Willetts as its chancellor.
So, it seems clear to me that David Willetts is a terrible choice for chancellor of The University of Leicester. His role in raising tuition fees and the fact he believes they are affordable are reason enough alone to view this as a bad choice, and that’s before even delving into the anti-feminist side of things. So, what’s being done?
Well Student Union President Amy Moran has put out a statement condemning Willetts being made chancellor and there is currently a petition going around in the hope of getting the university to reconsider their decision. Will they? Honestly, it’s too hard to tell but it surely cannot be right for someone such as David Willetts to represent this university as chancellor.