Monday, September 26, 2011

Lord Glasman: time to close half of UK universities?

Well, he's done it again.

The BBC carries the full story here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] Closing half of Britain's universities is among the radical ideas being considered by Labour leader Ed Miliband, his policy adviser says.

Lord Glasman - self-styled creator of the "Blue Labour" philosophy - made the claim at a fringe meeting at the Labour conference in Liverpool. He believes the UK no longer "honours" skilled work, and wants to cut the number of academic institutions. They could be replaced by vocational colleges, suggested the Labour peer.

He initially insisted the idea had been rejected by Mr Miliband but later suggested it was "part of an ongoing conversation", though not one he expected an announcement on soon. [. . .]"

After some controversial remarks on immigration, Lord Glasman is back . . . and the comments reported by the BBC above are bound to prove highly controversial as well. This appears highly disappointing not least because (a) it will give new ammunition to David Willetts and the Conservatives that they - and not Labour - are the party to be trusted on higher education and (b) it will even give the Liberal Democrats hope - they may have gone for trebling fees, but they have been firm supporters of the higher education sector without any plans for cutting institutions.

The political damage is all the greater as Labour has been accused of making a u-turn today: Ed Miliband has confirmed the party would seek to cap fees at £6,000 if in power. (Previously, the party opposed any steep rise.)

I hope we hear from the Labour frontbenches denying any substance to the above claims. So-called "Blue Labour" is damaging enough. Comments on immigration were even more damaging. Now this. What next?

UPDATE:To be clear, the idea is that about half of institutions would be closed as universities and re-opened as vocational institutions. Or so I understand. What do readers think?

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