Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, Andrea Jenkyns claimed UK universities were being hijacked by “politically-motivated campaigners” while failing to deliver basic skills.
Outlining her plans to enshrine “free speech” in universities, she claimed students were wrongly “being fed a diet of critical race theory, anti-British history and sociological Marxism”.
she said the new administration was “determined to provide an alternative” to so-called Mickey Mouse degrees.
“This is the country that gave us the internet, the telephone, the television and the railways. And we didn’t do it all by having our brightest and best students standing at seminars and discussing decolonisation programmes or patriarchy,” she said.
“The current system would rather our young people get a degree in Harry Potter studies than an apprenticeship in construction,” she told the fringe event in Birmingham last week.
“It doesn’t take magic powers to work out that this is wrong. This is why the Government is committed to putting the broomstick to good use and carrying out a spring clean of low-quality courses.”
However, while Durham University formerly offered a module on the wizarding world as part of its undergraduate degree in education studies, no British universities currently offer a degree in Harry Potter studies.
Ms Jenkyns was reappointed to her role as minister for skills, further and higher education by Liz Truss last month. In her speech she promised to work with Kit Malthouse – the fifth Education Secretary to hold the position in a single year – to slim down the number of university courses that “lead nowhere”.
Her comments are the latest sign that the Government will try to cut the number of courses available to students, as it attempts to pivot towards a more skills-based education system.
Last week, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that universities will now be subject to minimum retention thresholds for the proportion of students who continue on their course.
Universities and colleges will be placed under investigation unless 75 per cent of students complete their courses, and 60 per cent go on to further study or to a full-time job within 15 months of graduating.
A DfE spokesperson said the move was part of “a bid to clamp down on universities recruiting students onto poor-quality degrees that lead to nowhere.”
Ms Jenkyns also signalled that the Government would push ahead with plans to introduce a freedom of speech Bill for higher education in the coming months.
The MP for Morley and Outwood said new legal protections would ensure universities would be places “that people go to to have their views challenged” rather than being “cancelled”.