Pat McFadden said ministers who had benefited from a top university education risked “pulling up the drawbridge” on the next generation.
His opposite number in government, Vince Cable, has stated that he is not in favour of Labour’s target of 50 per cent of young people entering higher education, a policy introduced during Tony Blair’s second term in office.
Mr McFadden, speaking today in Manchester at Labour’s annual party conference, said: “More achievement isn’t a decline in standards: it’s people getting chances in life that their parents and grandparents could never have dreamed of. And our movement knows that if you give people a platform, they will achieve.”
He added: “I have a message for the ministers in charge who benefited from the best education themselves: stop attacking the goals of more participation in education; don’t pull up the drawbridge from the generation that comes after you.”
The speech came two days after Ed Miliband narrowly defeated his brother David in the race to become the Labour Party’s leader. He is in favour of replacing the current system of student tuition fees and loans in England with a graduate tax – a major shift in policy for the party that introduced the current system while in power.
• For more coverage and analysis of the Labour Party conference, see Times Higher Education, 30 September.