Blackstone hint brings Bett cash cheer

December 17, 1999

Higher education minister Baroness Blackstone has signalled that extra government cash could be available to boost lecturers' pay in the forthcoming spending review, writes Alan Thomson.

Baroness Blackstone gave hope to academics in a debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday of last week. It is the strongest indication yet that the government is prepared to find the extra money needed to meet recommendations on pay in the Bett report.

Academics knew there would be no cash for Bett in the current comprehensive spending review.

Baroness Blackstone told the Lords: "The next spending review is now under way and university staff will clearly be a factor. But ... I cannot prejudge the outcome. However, perhaps I may say ... that the government is not washing its hands of that issue."

The minister also underlined the need for university diversity in terms of available funding for teaching and research. She said: "Therefore, for some there should be more money for research and more money perhaps for widening participation and other projects."

Lord Butler, master of University College, Oxford, had earlier told peers it would be tragic if the potential of higher education was to be squandered through neglect of the "precious stock of human capital". Oxford University's chancellor Lord Jenkins of Hillhead called for an end to the government's cap on tuition fees.

Former Conservative education secretary Lord Baker of Dorking said the government had to face up to differential fees.

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