Academic urges party to drop opposition to top-ups

October 7, 2005

If any political party should have supported university top-up fees, it should have been the Conservatives, says an academic who advised both the Thatcher and Major governments.

Patrick Minford of Cardiff Business School called on the Conservatives to consign their opposition to university tuition fees "to the rubbish heap" and rethink their higher education policy.

Professor Minford worked closely with Sir Keith Joseph, Nigel Lawson and Margaret Thatcher from the late 1970s - helping develop the Thatcherite brand of monetary policy and union reforms - and was on a Treasury panel of "wise men" in the 1990s.

Speaking to The Times Higher at this week's Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, Professor Minford said: "The party should forget the nonsense it has spoken about higher education for the past five years.

"It (the opposition to tuition fees) has been quite a disgraceful episode in Conservative Party doctrine, and it needs to be consigned to the rubbish heap by the new leader," he added.

Professor Minford was called in by Sir Keith Joseph to advise Mrs Thatcher in 1978, when she was leader of the Opposition. He proposed policies to control the money supply and the public spending deficit to combat inflation.

In Mrs Thatcher's second term, Professor Minford's advice about how to "cure unemployment" by reforming the "supply side" of the labour market inspired, in part, the union and state benefit reforms introduced by then Cabinet ministers Norman Tebbit and David Young.

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