Sir Ron Dearing dominated the higher education elements of the manifestos launched this week by the two main parties. The brief reference to higher education in the Conservative manifesto indicates that they are still waiting for Dearing to report before settling on a model for the funding and organisation of the system. And the Labour Party's manifesto reiterated its plans outlined in its submission to his inquiry.
The Conservatives claimed a "revolution" in further and higher education since 1979, citing vastly expanding numbers in both sectors. Of the future, they said: "We will ensure consistently high standards and will consult on the future development of higher education when we receive the results of the Dearing review. We have world-class research in British universities which we will continue to support."
A more specific promise was that of a Learning Credit for each student between the ages of 14 and 21 "which will enable them to choose suitable education or training leading to recognised qualifications up to A level or equivalent".
Labour sources dismissed this as a "paper promise", offering no extra resources. Labour in its turn said that an improved system could not be funded from general taxation and restated proposals from its Dearing submission.
"The cost of student maintenance should be repaid by graduates on an income-related basis from the career success to which higher education has contributed. The current system is badly administered and payback periods are too short."
Labour also promised priority for adult learning at work and in FE colleges.
The Conservatives will consult teachers and others about a professional body for teachers modelled on the Royal Colleges.