The decisions they face

May 9, 1997

THES reporters examine the higher and further education issues facing the new ministers

TRAINING

"ONE OF the Government's first priorities," said minister for employment Andrew Smith, "will be delivering the Government's 'New Deal' for young people - getting them from welfare to work. I will be taking early action to deliver on our pledge to give 250,000 unemployed young people real opportunities to break away from benefits into jobs, training and education," writes Phil Baty.

But fleshing out the pre-election rhetoric that has surrounded Labour's key manifesto pledge is going to be some task. Education secretary David Blunkett has already lamented the inherited Pounds 69-million "black hole" in the further education budget, which is expected to create a major obstacle to delivering the programme.

Funds from Labour's proposed windfall tax on privatised utilities have been earmarked for welfare-to-work. And rapidly shrinking estimates of the one-off tax yield have increased uncertainty.

The potential saviour for new Labour's training programme is the University for Industry. Chancellor Gordon Brown's original idea has been developed by the Institute for Public Policy Research and been hailed by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals as an exciting union of further and higher education, adult learning, and youth training. Largely self-financing, paid for through user subscriptions and franchisees, the computer-based education "broker" has so far met only one hitch - a dispute over the use of the name University.

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