On Monday 29 January, the Today programme hosted by Justin Webb on BBC Radio 4, will be in Sheffield to discuss student issues.

It will feature the Minister for Higher Education Sam Gyimah and the NUS president Shakira Martin as special guests. The programme will be broadcast live from the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, with a studio audience who will have the opportunity to join the discussion.

Justin Webb, who has previously been the BBC’s North American News Editor and the presenter of BBC One’s Breakfast News, spoke with Forge News about the inspiration behind the University Tour.

Speaking about the key reasons behind the focus on students, he said: “Obviously, a significant part of our audience is people who are at university and who are interested in world affairs and what’s going on in the country.”

He went on to say: “I think we realise that we haven’t in the past always served students particularly well. We thought it was time to rather than talking about student affairs, to come and hear from students themselves.”

Webb discussed other key issues that prompted the Today programme to start their tour. He explained: “The other really important thing is the issue of freedom of speech and when its acceptable to stop people saying what they want to say, that’s something of great political importance and also tuition fees, just the simple subject of what on earth to do about this system that many people say is a disaster.”

The Today programme will be holding different discussions in each location it visits, with an array of public figures to join the debates. The programme in Sheffield will explore some of the issues which prompted the creation of the tour, whilst also touching on other topics more specific to the Sheffield universities.

Webb talked about the show’s interest in exploring degrees which operate alongside industry placements and their future potential. He explained: “because of Sheffield University’s and Sheffield Hallam’s interest in doing their work alongside industry, one of the [issues we will discuss] is the extent to which that can grow in the future and whether degrees are in a sense too academic at the moment.”

Monday’s programme will also focus on the Government’s proposed changes to the degree system. Webb explained: “The Government wants to think about two year degrees, it will be interesting to hear what people think about that. Could you have a set of degrees that were done much more quickly so were cheaper but were still academically rigorous?”

Student politics is a subject of particular interest for the Today programme as they will be exploring whether there was a ‘youthquake’ during last year’s election. Webb also discussed a standout moment from the previous broadcast at the University of Kent, which went on to garner significant media attention. He said: “We had a really interesting discussion at the last programme, this just sticks in my mind, someone said that it had been easier to come out as gay to his parents than it had been to tell them that he was a Conservative.”

Webb seems keen to maintain audience engagement in Monday’s show stating, “talking to the Conservative students in Kent was a really interesting experience and I hope that we can carry that on.”

In the previous instalment of the programme’s university tour, NUS President Shakira Martin was unable to attend the broadcast in Kent. However, Martin will be at the AMRC on Monday to chat with Justin Webb which he is particularly enthusiastic about. He said: “I’m really glad that she’s coming and I’m looking forward to talking in particular to her. The NUS is in an interesting state at the moment, so that’s probably going to be one of the key features.”

The Today programme will be broadcast live from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre from 6.00am to 9.00am and free tickets are available to apply for via http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/today_live_29jan18

The show will be available on the BBC iPlayer after the broadcast. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qj9z/episodes/player


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