In Brief

Britain ‘now the stupid country’

Melvyn Bragg says nation’s universities are being destroyed

Britain is becoming a “stupid country” as its university system is slowly destroyed, according to Melvyn Bragg.

The outspoken broadcaster and Labour peer attacked the state of higher education in the UK during an interview with the Radio Times.

“We have, per capita, the best university system in the world, but it’s being – carelessly and utterly stupidly – destroyed very slowly,” Lord Bragg told the magazine. “We used to be the clever country and now we’re clearly the stupid country. Except for certain highlights.”

The 78-year-old, who presents BBC Radio 4’s discussion programme In Our Time, is a former chancellor of the University of Leeds.

He was among more than 30 signatories of a letter published in The Times in April that warned the Government against changing the way degrees are funded.

Alongside playwright Alan Bennett, philosopher Baroness Warnock and other public figures, Bragg accused ministers of reducing universities and individual courses to “entrants in a junior gymnastics competition, ranked gold, silver or bronze”.

The criticisms come as scores of university courses are quietly cancelled “in anticipation of a government review of tuition fees that is expected to slash the amount students pay for arts degrees”, says The Times. “Ministers want to see lower fees for courses deemed of less economic benefit,” the newspaper explains.

Bragg, who has worked in television since 1961, also told the Radio Times that he was impressed with recent shows Patrick Melrose and A Very English Scandal, but had yet to see Love Island.

“The popularity of series like Love Island show that we’re becoming increasingly eccentric and increasingly incompetent, in equal measure,” he said. “I mean to watch it. I haven’t yet, but I will. I always like to watch things that are very popular. Maybe I’ll get addicted.”

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