In the news: Baroness Sharp

July 2, 2004

The Liberal Democrats can lay claim to saving thousands of students a small fortune in tuition fees thanks, in significant part, to the efforts of education spokeswoman Baroness Sharp of Guildford.

Along with the Conservatives, Baroness Sharp was instrumental in supporting an amendment to the Higher Education Bill regarding the Government's stance on fees for students wishing to defer entry until 2006. Thanks to the House of Lords, these students will now escape top-up fees for the duration of their courses.

She was also responsible for securing concessions from Government that will ensure that the position of part-time students is not forgotten in the Bill.

Baroness Sharp was this week predicting a relatively smooth passage for the Bill, which was due to return to the upper chamber this week, with most peers satisfied that they have pushed the Government as far as they can.

Baroness Sharp is a career academic who lectured at the London School of Economics from the early 1960s to early 1970s and was at Sussex University between 1981 and 1999, spending 15 years in the Science Policy Research Unit.

Political ambitions grew apace but were thwarted for two decades. She contested the Guildford constituency unsuccessfully for the now-defunct SDP-Liberal Alliance in the 1983 and 1987 general elections and fought the same seat in the 1992 and 1997 elections for the Liberal Democrats.

In 1998, aged 60, she was considering retirement when she was appointed to the Lords, which offered her the political channel she had been looking for as an MP.

Within two years she was promoted to Liberal Democrat frontbench spokeswoman on education and science in the Lords.

A staunch defender of the role of the Lords, Baroness Sharp this week wrote to The Times saying: "These days, the more significant gains are often made in this chamber."

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