Emma Barnett Roasts Top Tory Over 'Rip-Off Degrees' Crackdown

Emma Barnett clashed with Damian Hinds on the Today programme.
Emma Barnett clashed with Damian Hinds on the Today programme. BBC

A top Tory was roasted by Today programme presenter Emma Barnett as he struggled to explain his party’s plans to axe “rip-off” degrees.

Education minister Damian Hinds was unable to name a single course which could be scrapped under the policy.

The Conservatives say getting rid of degrees which do not provide value for money would free up enough money to create 100,000 new apprenticeships for young people.

Rishi Sunak said: “Improving education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for boosting life chances. So, it’s not fair that some university courses are ripping young people off.

“Thanks to our plan, apprenticeships are much higher quality than they were under Labour.

“And now we will create 100,000 more, by putting an end to rip-off degrees and offering our young people the employment opportunities and financial security they need to thrive.”

On the Today programme this morning, Barnett told Hinds: “Your education secretary, Gillian Keegan, has said in the Telegraph ‘we will outlaw rip-off degrees so that no more students are lured onto courses that don’t deliver the outcomes that people deserve’. Her words.

“Can you give me the top three degrees right now that are ‘rip-off degrees’ in your department?”

Hinds replied: “You genuinely cannot generalise about entire subject areas. In almost all core subjects, there will be some institutions delivering well and some not doing well.

“So, for example, if you take computer science, you get earnings and outcomes from young people studying a computer science degree which will range from £18,000 to £80,000.

“So it’s not about an individual subject, it’s about specific courses.”

Barnett asked him: “Can you name some courses?”

The minister said: “I genuinely don’t think it would be right or fair to young people who are currently on an under-graduate course to have a politician come on the radio and name check that particular course that they are on.”

Barnett then fired back: “It’s your education secretary’s choice to call them rip-off degrees.”

Hinds said the government had created the independent Office for Students to assess whether courses were providing value for money.

“There are ways of evaluating these things in a very fair way,” he said.

But the presenter told him: “Your education secretary has chosen incredibly punchy language - rip-off degrees. She’s made that choice. It is only right that she has thought through what those degrees are. What are they? Can you name just one?”

The minister replied: “Yes, there are measures already in place that measure the quality of degrees. It’s not for politicians to say ‘I like that one, I don’t like that one’.”

Barnett said: “I’m trying to think of how you thought this through.”

Hinds said: “The education secretary is right to talk about some young people being ripped off. If you do two years of a three-year course, you are left with very little from that time.”

Barnett then told him: “The reason I’m putting these two things together is it’s been said today that these ‘rip-off degrees’ that you won’t name for reasons you’ve explained - and people may find that striking - will be scrapped under a new law as a way of funding [apprenticeships].”