Ron's lot sorted by Easter

March 1, 1996

The membership of Sir Ron Dearing's review of higher education is expected to be agreed before Easter.

The main issue confronting Education and Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard, who will formally make the appointments to the group, is whether members should be appointed as individuals or as representatives of groups with an interest in higher education.

The outcome is likely to be a body of around a dozen - the same size as the 1961-63 Robbins committee, widely cited as a precedent. Members are likely to be appointed as individuals, but with attention to ensuring that major interest groups are not left unrepresented.

The range of members is likely to be far broader than that of Robbins, ten of whose 12 members were drawn from education and with only two business representatives. Half of the committee came directly from higher education. The committee's only survivor Lionel Elvin, then director of the Institute of Education, recalls that Lord Robbins, formerly chairman of the court of governors of the London School of Economics, dominated its operations with Sir Philip Morris, then vice chancellor of Bristol University, second in influence. The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals hopes that two vice chancellors will be included this time.

* Olga Wojtas writes, Michael Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland, has said that the review could include a separate committee on Scotland.

Mr Forsyth is seeking views on how the inquiry should take account of the distinctiveness of Scottish higher education. He has asked "relevant interests" in Scotland to comment on the composition and terms of reference of the committee by March 19.

"Scotland has a well-established tradition of higher education which makes a vital contribution to the United Kingdom," he said. "We must ensure that this is taken fully into account in the review. A committee to take account of the distinctive features of higher education in Scotland is one possible route."

John Arbuthnott, convener of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, said it would favour a subcommittee to investigate the role higher education institutions played in Scotland's economic, cultural and social life.

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