Science minister idea wins support

April 11, 1997

Huw Richards takes a hard look at what the parties are offering in further and higher education

Candidates from all parties except the Conservatives are heavily in favour of appointing a dedicated minister for science and research, according to a survey released this week.

Liberal Democrats and nationalists provided the bulk of responses to an Association of University Teachers survey of general election candidates - 226 Liberal Democrats replied, against 84 Conservatives and 144 Labour. A high proportion of Labour and Conservative candidates chose to reply by letter rather than filling in a 12-part questionnaire.

Labour and Liberal Democrat support for a science and research minister was more than 75 per cent. Conservatives were in favour, but by only 38 per cent to 29 per cent against, on a sample of 31 respondents.

There was all-party support for the idea for funding "allocated on a five-year cycle with a capacity for limited adjustments". Only 5 of the 360 respondents from all parties disagreed. Conservatives were 63 per cent in favour with Labour 89 per cent and Liberal Democrats 93 per cent.

Only Scottish Nationalists, still committed to grants, opposed income-contingent loans while there was overwhelming support for continued expansion to reach the CBI's 40 per cent age participation target - Liberal Democrats were the most sceptical at 77 per cent in favour.

The AUT also won heavy support for two cherished projects. All parties except the Conservatives (73 per cent) were more than 90 per cent in favour of required teaching qualifications for new lecturers. A pay review body won almost identical levels of support.

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