Focus on knowledge in bid to woo voters

April 8, 2005

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, kicked off the Labour Party's election campaign this week with a speech promising to "make university and college funding a priority in the next Parliament".

Speaking on Tuesday, the day Tony Blair announced that the general election will take place on May 5, Mr Brown set out his party's "governing philosophy".

The Chancellor said that India and China were turning out 4 million graduates a year, adding: "We, Britain, cannot afford to waste the talents of any child, discard the potential of any young person, leave untapped the talents of any adult.

"In making education our number one priority in our coming election manifesto, our mission is to ensure British people are the best educated and the most skilled."

He "committed" the next Labour Government to "moving our education system up a gear". He said this would mean making university and college funding a priority in the next Parliament.

Mr Brown also championed the role of science and said that Britain must become the world's leading location for research and science-based industries.

He said there would be more money for science, promising the next Labour Government would "build on" the extra £2.5 billion investment in science under the ten-year science framework. He said: "We are determined to invest more in science in the coming Parliament than in the last."

The Liberal Democrat campaign was launched by Charles Kennedy, the party leader, who reiterated his pledge to scrap tuition fees, paid for by raising the top rate of tax for those earning more than £100,000 a year.

Michael Howard, the Conservative Party leader, focused on schools in his speech to launch his party's campaign. He committed a Conservative Government to spending an extra £15 billion on schools in its first term of office.

Meanwhile, Universities UK launched its 2005 election "manifesto", demanding more money for teaching.

It highlighted the need to replace dilapidated lecture theatres, libraries and IT networks and to address staff pay. It said support for part-time students should be put on an equal footing with full-timers and the costs of teaching those at risk of dropping out should be recognised.

Ivor Crewe, president of the UUK and vice-chancellor of Essex University, said: "The next government's attitude to higher education will be critical and we want every candidate in every constituency to understand the importance of higher education."

News, page 5 Leaders, page 12

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