Higher education spokesman Bryan Davies has been promoted within Labour's shadow team.
Mr Davies, who succeeded Jeff Rooker in the role last year, was given shadow minister status in the reshuffle completed this week. Shadow education secretary David Blunkett said: "This reflects an upgrading of further and higher education and a wider role for Bryan, linking further and higher issues to lifelong learning and 16-plus issues.
Mr Blunkett, 47, moves to education from health. He has not previously held an education post but can point to extensive direct experience of the British education system, having attended special institutions for the blind, technical colleges, Sheffield University and Huddersfield College of Education. He lectured at Barnsley College of Technology for 13 years before entering parliament in 1987.
Mr Blunkett said: "Education is vital to the social and economic health of the nation, the driving force of a competitive modern economy. We used to talk about the vital importance of the commanding heights of the economy. Education now fills that role."
The previous shadow education secretary, Ann Taylor, held on to her shadow cabinet place and becomes shadow leader of the House with responsibilities for science.