Wendy Piatt is owed much of the credit for the proposals for student support unveiled this week by the Commons' education select committee. Dr Piatt, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, suggested a similar seamless financial support system for students in further and higher education in a report published last December with colleague Peter Robinson. Their plans for tuition fees to rise along with loan interest rates for those who can afford them are also echoed in this week's report.
She said: "There is compelling logic in the proposition that those who stand to make a fairly good return should receive less subsidy and, at the present, the system is the other way around."
But while these ideas from the Blairite think-tank found favour with MPs, they gained little support at this week's conference hosted by lecturers'
union Natfhe. It would rather push for taxes to rise to pay for further and higher education. One delegate described 31-year-old Dr Piatt as "loopy". The National Union of Students also opposes her ideas.
Dr Piatt is the first of her family to go to university. She left her convent school on Merseyside for King's College London in 1988, just as maintenance grants were being phased out and loans introduced. After reading English at King's, she did a masters at the University of Oxford, followed by a doctorate in political philosophy and renaissance literature.
During her studies and afterwards, Dr Piatt spent time teaching schoolchildren and undergraduates in Oxford and Bristol. She originally intended to become an academic, but she also has an interest in contemporary politics, and this, combined with the poor working conditions within academia, led to her joining the IPPR in March 2000.
She describes herself as a Labour activist and her interests include gender politics and the work-life balance.