Hostages to fortune

June 18, 2001

During the 2001 general election campaign, politicians from all the main parties said what they would do about higher education and research if they were elected. The THES has collected some of these promises. We will judge the next government's performance against them.

Most of these statements appeared in part or in full in the "Hostages to fortune" column or other election stories in The THES . Sources include speeches, interviews with THES journalists, party briefings and press releases. Thanks to our readers for their contributions

Theresa May, shadow education secretary
The THES 1 June 2001
"Our policy will ensure that universities have the freedom to develop as world-renowned centres of excellence. It will also ensure that universities are not dependent on the goodwill of government for their funding."

  • The Conservatives say that £3.5 billion would be available for endowments very quickly by selling student debt to the private sector. Thereafter, additional cash for endowments would be available because loan debt is sold annually, generating some £1.6 billion by the party's calculations.
  • About £700 million of the £1.3 billion would come from selling the loan book. To make this saleable, the Tories propose to charge a real rate of interest of perhaps 5 per cent above inflation.
  • The remainder of the £1.3 billion would come from the endowment process via Treasury savings thanks to resource accounting and budgeting (RAB), a new method of accounting for government spending and investment.

Tony Blair, to questions from Save British Science
( THES story 1 June 2001)
"The salaries of scientists is an area where we will need to make further progress in a second term. But this week in our education manifesto, we announced the introduction of £5,000 'golden hellos' for new lecturers in shortage subjects."
SBS website, with responses from five party leaders

Baroness Blackstone, higher education minister
letter to The THES 1 June 2001
"There is absolutely no question of top-up fees being introduced in the next Parliament, as your story suggested last week."

Lifelong learning minister Malcolm Wicks, interview with The THES , 23 May 2001
"I would particularly like to see more people progressing from further education to university. We need to do more to encourage that to happen."

Tony Blair on improvements and investment in the National Health Service, 22 May 2001
"But we can do none of this without the people who work in the NHS. I believe passionately in attracting high-quality staff to the NHS. That means valuing them, respecting them and treating them well."

Schools minister Estelle Morris on reforms to schools and the curriculum, 18 May 2001
"We see no reason why as many as 200,000 youngsters should not be able to take vocational courses rather than academic ones. Such an approach will meet their aptitudes and the needs of employers for more skilled people."

Tony Blair, speech on the economy, 15 May 2001
"Education will be our number-one micro-economic policy in a second term as it was in our first. Education and lifelong learning must be raised to world-class standards"

Baroness Blackstone, interviewed by  The THES on 11 May 2001
"I think what we have to do is to continue to ensure that Britain has world-class universities. I think the extra investment the prime minister promises is going to be very important to achieving that."

Tony Blair in response to a parliamentary question, 9 May 2001
"Our priority during the first few years was to get the money into nurseries and primary schools. In the second term, if we are elected, we also want to get money into secondary schools and universities... Whereas under the previous Conservative government the funding of science fell very, very sharply, under the Labour government we shall be making a larger investment in science than this country has seen since the 1960s."
Hansard 9 May 2001

Conservative manifesto
"With us, graduates will not have to pay anything unless and until their income tops £20,000 per year. And we will not introduce top-up fees."
"Conservatives want our universities to be free to shape their own character and specialisms, competing with the world's best for students and research funding. To achieve their independence they need to have their own resources. We will therefore create permanent endowment funds for Britain's universities."
Conservatives website

Labour education manifesto
"Our ambition is that fifty per cent of young adults going to higher education by the age of 30 by 2010. This will be delivered through more help and encouragement for bright inner city young people and new foundation degrees to enable people to gain the qualifications being demanded by business. The goal will be backed by higher standards in our colleges and universities."
Labour education manifesto

Liberal Democrat manifesto
Liberal Democrats will:

  • Abolish university tuition fees throughout the United Kingdom.
  • Reform student maintenance. We would restore grants for poor students and access to benefits for all during the summer holidays, and raise the salary threshold at which student loans are repaid, in the first instance from £10,000 to £13,000 per year.
  • Improve access for under-represented groups
  • Improve salaries to attract and retain high-quality staff.
  • Ensure that universities are properly resourced by opposing any reduction in the 'unit of resource'

Liberal Democrats website

  More Election 2001 coverage

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