Party pieces: promises and prescriptions

May 18, 2001

Labour manifesto
Expansion

"We will maintain university entry standards while intensifying efforts to extend the huge advantages that a university education confers to able young people from all backgrounds."

Commitment Continue expanding student numbers over three years, moving towards target of half of all young people benefiting from higher education by age 30.

Fees
"We will ensure that the funding system continues to promote access and excellence."

Commitment Rule out top-up fees.

Teachers
Commitment Recruit 10,000 more

Teaching and research
"It is vital that our world-leading universities are able to compete with the best internationally."

Commitments

  • Strengthen research and teaching excellence
  • Back public-private cooperation
  • Reform teaching inspection systems to cut red tape for high-performing departments

Innovation
"Science and technology are the basis of new products and industries, both vital to productivity."

Commitments

  • Invest more in cutting-edge science such as biotechnology
  • A tax credit to promote business investment in research
  • Simplify the process of bringing ideas to market
  • Continue to encourage the best scientists to work in the UK.

Further education
"We are passionate about giving every child the chance of a decent education. We are equally determined to offer learning opportunities to adults. Further education colleges have a critical role to play."

Commitments

  • Help 750,000 of the 7 million adults lacking basic skills gain them by 2004
  • Give job seekers basic skills tests plus incentives and oblige them to take basic skills courses
  • 6,000 IT learning centres
  • Extend individual learning accounts
  • Tackle financial barriers that put adults off further education
  • Encourage dedicated colleges for under-19s and specialist adult provision to meet local needs
  • Every region to have two technology institutes to meet demand for high-level technical skills

Workplace learning
"We need a step-change in workplace learning - particularly in small and medium-sized firms."

Commitments

  • Statutory training framework
  • Develop training tax credit

NHS, doctors and nurses
"None of (Labour's) ambitions will be possible without major investment in the skill, working conditions and working practices of all NHS staff."

Commitments

  • 10,000 more doctors by 2005
  • 20,000 more nurses by 2005
  • University of the NHS to guarantee all staff opportunities for training and career development
  • £1 billion more for cancer, heart disease and stroke studies by 2004

Conservative manifesto
"Good students are put off going to college because they will be burdened by loans that must be repaid even when their income is relatively low."

Commitment Double income threshold at which graduates must start to repay student loans to £20,000.

"Our universities used to be the best in the world. Many of them still have a formidable reputation, but they are under threat from interference by politicians and uncertainty over their funding."

Commitment One-off endowment payments to universities. Shadow ministers say these could be in the order of £1 billion per institution, generating an annual income for teaching of about £70 million.

Conservatives' Scottish manifesto
"Some (students) are deterred from taking vital jobs, in teaching or in the health service, because of the burden of repaying both their student loans and the £2,000 graduate tax that is being introduced by the Labour-dominated Scottish Executive."

Commitment Abolish tuition fees. Introduce scholarships that cover the course fees of all Scottish students who gain the qualifications to study at a UK university. Would not apply to English students.

Liberal Democrat manifesto
"Britain's universities have traditionally had a high international reputation. During the 18 years of Conservative rule, that reputation was threatened by an ever tighter squeeze on resources. Labour has attempted to address the problem of underfunding by introducing tuition fees, which deter many students from going to university."

Commitments

  • Abolish university tuition fees throughout the United Kingdom
  • Restore maintenance grants for poor students and access to benefits for all in the summer holidays. Raise the salary threshold for repaying student loans, in the first instance from £10,000 to £13,000
  • Triple the incentive payments to universities for recruiting and retaining poor, mature and part-time students. Of this money, one-third would be paid in advance, the rest on completion of a course
  • Raise academic salaries, close the pay gap between female and male academics and end inequalities for casual and part-time staff
  • Fight to raise the unit of resource in the long term.

Further education and lifelong learning
"Access to quality further education is important to individuals as a means of fulfilling aspirations. For too long, the sector has been at the bottom of the academic pile."

Commitments

  • Every adult entitled to funding to acquire a level 2, equivalent to five GCSEs at grades A to C. Entitlement to funding for all 16 to 24-year-olds up to level 3, equivalent to two A levels at grades A to E. Student loans available to everyone on the above courses
  • Merge the Learning and Skills Council with the Higher Education Funding Council for England to simplify the funding and qualifications system
  • Reform national vocational qualification system to cut red tape and allow student to accumulate and transfer learning credits
  • An individual learning account for everyone in UK.

Employment and training
"Britain is held back by a lack of skills in the workforce."

Commitments

  • Tax incentives for small and medium-sized companies to improve training
  • National training organisations to ballot member employers on a training levy
  • Paid study leave for every employee aged 16 to 24
  • Replace New Deal with guarantee of help for all job seekers, administered through combined benefits and jobs agency
  • Tackle unemployment hot spots by transferring employment funds where they are most needed.

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