Leader: Does the minister need a higher education?

June 20, 2003

A new debate began in the Common Room section of The THES website this week, when a reader asked: "Should a higher education minister have had a higher education?" It is a question that has been asked frequently, even in the short time since Alan Johnson was appointed as Margaret Hodge's successor. The first respondent was in so little doubt of the necessity that she assumed the question to be rhetorical. But is it? As Mr Johnson - who became a postman rather than apply to university - will no doubt remind critics, Geoff Hoon manages as defence secretary without having served in the forces; health secretary John Reid is a doctor, but of economic history not medicine. The choice of a non-graduate from a Parliamentary Labour Party packed with graduates may seem perverse, but there is more to suitability for office than familiarity with the territory. Mr Johnson will be judged on whether he can pilot contentious legislation through the Commons and make it work, not on his background.

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