Former Chancellor George Osborne made his inaugural guest economics lecture to postgraduate students the day before the Tory conference started, however no other students were invited and many seemed to be unaware of its occurrence.
A University of Manchester spokesperson told The Mancunion that it’s not university policy to advertise guest lectures, and that his lecture contained discussion on “the difficulties of applied economic policy, in the context of a world economy that suffered from a significant financial crisis, in general but also from the perspective of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in particular. A lively Q&A session contributed to an event that the Manchester postgraduate students valued significantly.”
However, criticism has been directed at the university and the now editor of The London Evening Standard, as the lecture itself was closed to all other students other than postgraduate economic students. The spokesperson clarified that “The event was by invitation only” but that “all Economics postgraduate students were invited.” 60 tickets were released and the event reached capacity.
The University of Manchester released a video afterwards of George Osborne talking about his experience, and how much he enjoyed his first visit to the university.
George Osborne told The Mancunion “It was great to get on the campus and talk with lots of students. I opened with my thoughts on how economic thinking comes to shape decisions in a modern democracy like ours – and then the students took the discussion to all sorts of issues, from the impact of Brexit to the rise of China. Some students agreed with my thoughts; others wanted to question them – that’s as it should be at a great university like Manchester.”
When asked why the lecture wasn’t open to all students, he responded: “This was a seminar with economics postgrads; next time it can be undergraduates or PhD students. I’m going to be coming a few times a term, so there’ll be lots of opportunity to meet different groups of students in different formats.”
The lecture took place at the Manchester Museum. A member of staff who chose to remain anonymous expressed their distaste at the choice of venue: “[it’s] ridiculous as his policies actively cut funding to cultural and arts institutions… I wanted to say something about it because I was fuming at how secretive it was, and fuming that he was taking advantage of the museum, that he had helped make sure there was no funding for.” She continued to describe it as ironic.
She also alleged that Mr Osbrone was snuck in the back door with a security detail. The Mancunion has requested comment from the Manchester Museum.
Many Manchester students were frustrated at the lack of publicity surrounding his visit, such as David Cheetham who said he “knew nothing about this lecture” and he “would have been very keen to see it.” Amy Nguyen told The Mancunion that the closed nature of the event was “such a shame” as “having access to expertise whether you agree with his previous policies or not is so important for the future generation of leaders.”
Some were more critical however, such as Iqra Chowdury who said “I’d love to sit in on Prof [sic] Osborne’s lectures and ask him why he thinks he’s an expert on economics when his austerity policies have been criticised by a UN report, and damned public sector workers to a real-time pay cut.”
Campaigns Officer of the Students’ Union, Deej Malik-Johnson, told The Mancunion: “As an officer of the SU I am disappointed by the lack of communication from the university about the inaugural lecture from our esteemed friend Gideon as I’m sure students would have benefitted greatly from knowing more about this learning opportunity, I could only wildly speculate about how this may have been overlooked.”