The minister is currently touring a handful of universities across the UK as part of his #SamOnCampus campaign to meet and hear from university staff and students, and first visited BU’s Fusion Building to see a showcase of various university research projects.
Attending the showcase, alongside Vice Chancellor Professor John Vinney and Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, the minister was able to take part in a virtual laparoscopic surgery with Dr Tom Wainwright, deputy head of the Orthopaedic Research Institute, who explained the advantages and benefits of training the next generation of orthopaedic surgeons in virtual learning environments, using CGI to both train for operations as well as aid in enhanced patient recovery.
Professor Jan Wiener, Head of the Ageing and Dementia Research Centre (ADRC) then took the minister through virtual technology being used to aid people living with dementia, and how this can help both those affected and carers. The minister then heard from Dr Sarah Bate and PhD student Ebony Murray of the Centre for Face Processing Disorders, whose work in face tracking and recognition could form a link between prosopagnosia and developmental disabilities like autism.
Mr Gyimah then took part in a ground-breaking event at Talbot Campus with Wilmott Dixon’s Managing Director of Southern Homes Counties, Richard Poulter, who gave a brief speech before declaring the first day of construction, alongside assembled Wilmott Dixon and university staff involved in the construction project.
Speaking about BU in an interview on campus with final year BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism students Poppy Bullen and Shey Spears, the minister said: “I love the Fusion Building, I think it’s absolutely fantastic – it’s a great space, very open and modern and I think that’s really good.
“Seeing some of the applied research that is being done across the board is really interesting – if anything, Bournemouth University should be shouting more about it to the rest of the world.”
In talking about some of the challenges facing him in his role, the minister said: “One of the things that’s very key to me as Universities Minister, is ensuring that students get value for money for their degrees.
“Students are investing a considerable amount of money in their degrees and I want to make sure that they get what they have paid for from the university, but also afterwards that whatever they want to do with their degrees, that they are able to pursue those dreams and ambitions.”
He added: “That’s why I started this whole thing called #SamOnCampus; to be able to actually go out there to listen and engage with students so that they have a voice in the decisions that are being made in Westminster.”
After introductions from BU’s Students’ Union, SUBU, and Vice President Education Alex Hancox, the minister then began a Q&A event at BU’s Kimmeridge House, with SUBU officers Ebony Harding, Brooke Elias, Charlie Souter-Phillips and Daniel Asaya forming the panel.
A number of areas and topics were discussed, including student loan interest rates, maintenance grants, a focus on science and technology over arts subjects, as well as value for money.
In responding to a student question about a perceived lack of trust in politicians and his responsibilities in his role as Universities Minister, the minister said: “I hope that I’ve given you more than enough – I’ve turned up to answer your questions and answer any question on my brief that anyone can put to me.”
“In terms of my brief and my responsibilities for universities, we have a system where universities are autonomous institutions, so it isn’t my job to ‘run universities’, universities have Vice Chancellors who run them, but in terms of university policy and government policy that affects universities and students, that falls within my remit.”
In concluding the event, MP for Bournemouth West, Conor Burns, thanked the minister for his time and visit, and made an open offer to students that had expressed an interest in visiting the House of Commons.
Vice Chancellor Professor Vinney said: “Sam’s event was a brilliant opportunity for BU students to pose questions to the Universities Minister while he was on campus - there were a number of topics up for discussion, and Sam was keen to hear from as many students as possible about issues that mattered to them.”
He added: “It was fantastic to have the minister take part in our ground-breaking ceremony too - The Poole Gateway Building forms a part of our vision for the future as a core part of our strategic plan, BU2025.”
You can listen to the evening event in a dedicated podcast below.