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SMF student discussion groups, 2015: a formidable challenge for the SMF trustees!

The SMF closed a packed autumn events schedule with our annual student discussion groups. A first for the SMF, this year we called upon the SMF’s board of trustees to lead the debates.

Over 80 students participated in a series of discussions across our Business, Banking, Law, Media and Politics sectors in London and Manchester. The discussions were chaired by Sir Terry Leahy, the Rt. Hon Hazel Blears, Tom Cassels, Trevor Phillips, Ann Doherty and the Rt. Hon Nick Clegg; topics were varied and often contentious, ranging from assisted dying, EU membership and taxing sugar, to pondering ‘can we trust our banks?’

Students were provided with journal articles and newspaper reports to prepare for the discussions. They were separated into groups and tasked with advocating for a particular perspective, often one they didn’t necessarily agree with! The discussion groups simulate university seminar environments: they are designed to develop students’ debating skills, critical thinking, articulacy and awareness of topical issues in their chosen academic or career sector, and aid in the preparation for higher education and independent study.

Students displayed a wealth of knowledge and independent research, and demonstrated an ability to use different academic disciplines to formulate their arguments.

The discussion groups provided the trustees with the opportunity to directly engage with SMF students and staff alike. After hosting a politics discussion group for 20 students at Portcullis House, the Rt. Hon Nick Clegg said:

“Our topic was Europe. At the beginning, the group was a bit hesitant. By the end, everyone wanted to speak and the quality of the discussion was far better than most Parliamentary debates on the topic! It was just wonderful to see how everyone in the group grew in confidence. I hugely enjoyed being part of it.”

Following the debates the trustees invited questions relating to their careers and experiences. The opportunity to quiz industry leading figures in an informal, intimate environment led to some fascinating anecdotes and words of advice and the students left with a strong impression of the skills and determination required to succeed in their chosen professions.

The involvement of our trustees made this year’s discussions particularly memorable and we wish to extend our thanks for lending their time and efforts.

Student testimonals

“Ann Doherty was very friendly, which made me feel at ease as I was nervous at first. She led the discussion well and really did help me to understand the complex arguments for and against trusting banks.” Abiola, (London, Banking & Finance)

“I feel that by attending this event, although it has not altered my own personal viewpoint on the subject, I now have a greater understanding of the opposing view, which I feel enables me to make a more informed decision on whether or not to support a tax on sugar.” Callum, (Manchester, Biology & Chemistry)

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