Saturday, 6 June 2009

The short and pointless life of DIUS

Amongst the results of yesterday's reshuffle was the abolition of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). The functions of the department, created a mere 23 months ago, have been merged into Peter Mandelson's burgeoning empire, and may be the better for it. But the rapid demise of a department created merely to allow Ed Balls to absorb a host of other departments' children's issues into his Department for Children, Schools and Families illustrates the sheer pointlessness of departmental restructuring.

The truth is that the Department for Education and Skills - which covered schools, nurseries, colleges, universities and training - was a perfectly coherent department, and one of the most successful in Whitehall, before the decision was made to split its functions into two departments and add a lot of non-educational functions to the new DCSF. Splitting the two made little sense - even if it brought science and innovation alongside further and higher education, as this blog made clear at the time, not least because further education faced dealing with two masters, but also because it made a nonsense of a vision for lifelong learning that had hitherto been a mainstay of government policy.

To be fair to John Denham, he has been a good secretary of state, and his promotion to communities secretary is deserved, even if his department has with the help of the Learning and Skills Council, presided over some very messy college funding crises. But by splitting the departments, Gordon Brown actually weakened the voice of universities and colleges in government. At least that weakness should be remedied with Lord Mandelson in charge. But wouldn't it have been a lot easier to have recreated, dare one say it, a Department for Education?

1 comment:

pregethwr said...

Disagree: universities are vital but are always going to lose out to schools and nurseries.