Leader: Consistency is crucial

December 24, 2004

The arrival of the third Education Secretary of this Parliament, joining the third Higher Education Minister in the same period, is a reminder of what rare stability universities and colleges saw under the first Blair administration. For both David Blunkett and the then Tessa Blackstone to remain in the same posts for an entire Parliament was a feat that may never be equalled. Since 2001, by contrast, normal service has resumed: less than a year after the previous Education Secretary and Higher Education Minister, Charles Clarke and Alan Johnson, piloted the most contentious piece of legislation higher education ever produced through the Commons, both have moved on to bigger (if not necessarily better) things.

Of course, it is consistency of approach, rather than office holders, that those in higher education value. There is no reason to think that Ruth Kelly would wish to undo Mr Clarke's reforms, even if she could. But constant changes of leadership are bound to be unsettling. Ms Kelly may turn out to be a long-term appointment but, with an election months away, there can be no certainty, even in the event of another Labour victory.

Higher education's lobbyists will want to make an early impression on issues such as the relationship between teaching and research... just in case.

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