The Department for Education and Employment is one of the few not to have announced its plans for the second and third years of the comprehensive spending review. Could it be that the minister suspected numbers would fall short of targets this year and he would be able to improve the unit of resource while diverting some of the money he won from the Treasury to other uses? If so, he should think again before next month's pre-budget statement.
Higher education badly needs a substantial increase in funding to implement the recommendations of the Bett report and raise the level of pay. Lower-than-planned recruitment this year could be the opportunity to address this increasingly serious problem. If it is not taken, ministers should not be surprised to find pressure for differential fees increasing and more talk of institutions that can do so opting out of the state system, both options that ministers seem ambiguous about ruling out. It will also mean real financial peril for some institutions at the other end of the prosperity league, where the government's access agenda is being pursued most vigorously.