Labour's cuts fight

November 1, 1996

Your editorial (THES, October 25) arrived at the absurd conclusion that the Labour party must be held responsible for whatever cuts to higher education expenditure are made or confirmed in the forthcoming Budget! Admittedly we have had some success recently in changing the Government's legislative agenda, but we are not yet in a position to determine the contents of its Budget.

Labour has consistently campaigned, alongside academics, students and institutions themselves, for a rethink of the cuts announced last year. We have pointed out that the capital spending reductions were based on false assumptions. We have also announced plans for reform of the system of student funding, including measures to generate resources for investment in improved access to high-quality higher education provision. On numerous occasions, both before and after the publication of these plans, we have stated our opposition to the introduction of upfront or top-up tuition fees. Nobody has ever been in any doubt about this position, least of all the Dearing committee.

Despite these facts, you maintain that the Labour party has suddenly undermined the negotiating position of vice chancellors and departmental officials. This is quite patently nonsense and flies in the face of political and institutional reality. A "threat" to levy fees can be properly directed against an existing government but it can hardly constitute a "credible threat" if that administration does not expect to be in office to deal with the consequences. The Tory government alone must bear responsibility for Budget settlements during its terms of office.

Bryan Davies

Shadow further and higher education minister

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