Last week's THES reporting of the government's statement on more investment in higher education managed to be both inaccurate and dispiriting. We will not build a successful future for higher education on cynicism, and to criticise others for welcoming our announcement was, frankly, strange.
First, students are not funding the bulk of the cash boost announced. Nor is it true that we have taken more out of the system than we are putting in. In fact, the reverse is the case.
Next year we are investing significant additional sums in higher education over and above the reinvestment of the tuition fee income from students.
The extra Pounds 280 million that we have announced is additional funding for universities, colleges and their students and does not include expenditure on continuing grants and loans.
This investment is on top of the funds announced for universities last year (Pounds 165 million), which took account of Pounds 130 million private contributions to fees. In 1999-2000 universities are being allowed to keep all of the money that they raise in private tuition fees - a further sum of over Pounds 100 million in that year - and the government is providing the necessary additional funds to bring the total extra amount received by universities up to Pounds 280 million.
Second, we are beginning a major investment in lifelong learning. We have increased spending on further and higher education. This is just the start. The amount for research (accorded a passing mention) is an enormous boost for universities, and our job as government is to ensure that it is matched by investment in teaching and quality for the future.
After years of substantial, real terms cutbacks and reductions in quality and unit cost per student, there is a growing number of people who recognise that a wind of change is blowing that offers hope for the future. It is a pity that The THES does not appear to be among them.
David Blunkett. Secretary of State for Education