Thursday 10 June 2010

Who really betrayed universities over funding?

David Willetts, the universities minister, is too clever to believe the partisan tosh that he is mouthing about university funding today. He is right to argue the case for higher tuition fees and new approaches to higher education. But he also knows that Labour - with his support - established an independent review of university funding precisely to address the issues involved. He also knows that the solutions that he is talking about - including a greater focus on teaching quality and on FE college-based higher education were set out with admirable clarity by Lord Mandelson in his higher education strategy paper last year.

If Willetts wants to look for people to blame over higher education funding, he need look no further than his own front bench before he and David Cameron performed their overdue u-turn on tuition fees. (He might have a chat with the Home Secretary, who spoke on education when Labour first introduced fees). And while he's at it, the universities minister might care to educate his coalition colleagues - including his Secretary of State - who cynically misled university students about the potential for scrapping fees.

Such a strategy would be far more credible than attacking Labour ministers who took brave decisions in the face of such political cowardice. After all, he may need Labour support when the time comes to implement his tough decisions.

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