UNIVERSITY students were outraged to find out they were to be handed their degrees by the chairman of the Student Loans Company.
Filming commitments had kept Sanjeev Bhaskar, Sussex University chancellor, from presiding over this week’s graduation ceremonies for the 3,000 students at Brighton Dome. The chairman of the university council, Chris Brodie, was due to take his place but students complained as he is also the chairman of the Student Loans Company.
Gabriel Webber, outgoing returning officer of the University of Sussex Students’ Union, said: “We felt it was a bit ridiculous to be given our degrees by the same person who might as well be handing us a bill for £18,000 as we walked past.”
Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor, had said he could think of no one better to replace Mr Bhaskar – an actor and comedian best known for his work in BBC2 comedy shows Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42.
But following lobbying from the union, the university announced it had changed arrangements for the graduation and the degrees will now be presented by various academics.
Michael Segalov, union communications officer, said: “We received a lot of emails and messages from students who were unhappy about Mr Brodie presiding over the graduation and the union will now be looking to speak to students about whether they are unhappy about him occupying the lead role on the council.”
A spokeswoman for the university said: “Following consultation with students and representations from the students’ union, and with the agreement of Chris Brodie, it has been decided that students will be formally presented with their degrees by members of the academic staff from their individual schools. Timing and all other aspects of the graduation ceremonies are unchanged.”
The Student Loans Company was criticised in parliament yesterday by David Willetts, minister for universities and science, for sending “misleading letters” to students that gave the impression a third party had been engaged to collect debts, when this was not the case. He said Mr Brodie had offered to resign as chairman but the Secretary of State did not accept this as it was felt that a relatively new chairman should not take responsibility for a practice which had been going on for almost a decade.
Mr Brodie was appointed chairman in February.