Merger at the ministry

July 21, 1995

Geoffrey Holland is right to point out that a key feature of the Department of Employment's structure that will be inherited by the new combined department is the regional office network. The previous absence of education from the Government integrated offices was a glaring anomaly. He is also right to say that "there are powerful regional and local offices in the new structure and there can be integrated planning through them for all local provision for all stages of learning right up to the threshold of higher education" .

But why stop short of higher education? Our report for the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, Universities and Communities clearly identified the contribution universities make to local and regional economies and social regeneration. The outcome of the research assessment exercise and more stay-at-home students is likely to result in more local inter-institutional collaboration (and competition) that will need to be managed by government if a coherent pattern of higher education to meet the needs of the constituent parts of England is to emerge over the next decade.

Many of the aspirations for the acquisition of transferable skills by students can only be realised by university links with local employers, and public services.

John Goddard Centre for urban and regional development studies, University of Newcastle

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