UK Politics

Conservative Party: Higher education report faces difficult decisions head on

News   •   Oct 14, 2010 12:22 BST

Lord Browne's long-awaited review of funding in higher education has been welcomed by the Government this week with the Business Secretary, Vince Cable saying that he agreed with the 'main thrust' of the recommendations.

However, the publication has also exposed Labour's confusion over a graduate tax.

The report, which was commissioned by Labour when in government, demonstrates how they neglected higher education and left British universities struggling to remain internationally competitive; it simultaneously reveals the splits and political opportunism that lies at the centre of their approach to higher education funding. Initially, the idea of a graduate tax was rejected by Tony Blair and Lord Andrew Adonis, Blair's former education adviser and a subsequent Transport Secretary.

Throughout his leadership campaign Ed Miliband supported the graduate tax and referred to the current tuition fees model as 'old thinking' in his conference speech. Yet Labour's Shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson, has also consistently argued against a graduate tax. How can they form a credible opposition when their Shadow Chancellor and their Leader disagree on such an important issue?

The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: "The Labour Party are in complete confusion over higher education funding. First, they denounce a report that they commissioned when in government. Now their leader and Shadow Chancellor are at odds over a graduate tax. Ed Miliband promised to lead a responsible opposition party, but instead he's showing naked political opportunism. He has failed the first test of leadership."