A leading new Labour proponent of higher tuition fees and interest rates on student loans has been seconded to help the government develop its white paper on higher education, writes Alan Thomson.
Wendy Piatt, a senior research fellow at the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research, will join the Department for Education and Skills to help with the white paper, due in November.
The paper is expected to set out a strategy for higher education over the next ten years. It is anticipated that the results of the government's review of student support will be published at the same time.
Dr Piatt has written a number of papers for the IPPR on student support and widening participation. Her most recent, published this week as part of a wider IPPR report on civic renewal, discusses the scope for US-style "work-study" programmes for students to help them pay their way through university.
But it was Dr Piatt's report Opportunity for Whom? , published in December last year and co-authored by senior IPPR economist Peter Robinson, that recommended doubling the maximum annual undergraduate tuition fee payable at the time to £2,150, and levying market rate interest rates on student loans.
The report also questioned whether the government's 50 per cent higher education participation target by 2010 will increase the proportion of poorer students relative to those from wealthier backgrounds.
Dr Piatt is a keen advocate of focusing financial support lower down the education ladder, to college and school students studying for level 3 and level 2 qualifications.
Opportunity for Whom? recommended the extension of education maintenance allowances to encourage more 16 to 19-year-olds to study for university entry-level qualifications.
This week's IPPR report, Any Volunteers for the Good Society? Volunteering and Civic Renewal , was launched by home secretary David Blunkett. It included recommendations made in a report by Dr Piatt and Susan Stroud, of the Global Service Institute, based in Washington DC, on civic involvement and post-16 education.
It suggested that UK universities and the government could do more to provide opportunities and financial aid to encourage students to work as school teaching assistants and possibly in other public service areas.