Bichard bewails red tape

May 4, 2001

Education department chief Sir Michael Bichard admitted this week that education policy, such as the teaching quality assessment, had become overly bureaucratic and interventionist.

Sir Michael, departing permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment, said that one lesson he had learnt in his six years in the post was that there was a risk of government and the policy it produces becoming overly prescriptive.

Sir Michael, who leaves his DFEE post on May 19 and becomes rector of the London Institute in September, told the education and employment committee on Tuesday that, since beginning the handover with the present institute rector, Sir William Stubbs, he had realised just how bureaucratic exercises like the TQA can be.

Sir Michael said that the Higher Education Funding Council for England had been asked to investigate ways to reduce bureaucracy and that he would be using his influence as rector of the institute to reduce red tape.

He also told the committee that there was a need to keep a close eye on student debt.

Tuition fees were not the problem in terms of debt aversion, he said, but the increased size of the loans students have had to take out since the government scrapped means-tested maintenance grants was.

MPs quizzed Sir Michael about the future of the DFEE, which it is rumoured will be split in the next parliament, with employment forming a new department with the Benefits Agency.

Sir Michael refused to comment on future moves, but said that he was proud of what the department had achieved and that he would be "very, very sad" to see it split.

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