Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Save Willetts - New Campaign

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Save Willetts - New Campaign

Article excerpt

Persistent rumours that David Willetts, the universities and science minister, might soon lose his present post have prompted Professor Doug Gunter of our Politics Department to set up a "Save Dave" campaign.

"It's a vital issue," Professor Gunter told our reporter Keith Ponting (30). "If Willetts goes, there is every possibility that he will be replaced by Liz Truss, presently a junior minister in the Department for Education, whose commitment to right-wing ideas has already led to her being branded by one sector source as a 'head banger'."

But, asked Ponting, weren't there some minor concerns about Mr Willetts' competence? How about the cack-handed manner in which he had raised the cap on tuition fees in the expectation that universities would then compete with each other on price? What about his consistently over-hyped estimation of the amount of student debt that might be repaid? And what about his regular closed-door meetings with for-profit private providers, his failure to stand up to the home secretary over student visa restrictions, his readiness to hand over the student loan book to private debt collectors, his assertion that "feminism had trumped egalitarianism", his collusion in the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance and the raising of fees for adult learners?

Professor Gunter was happy to acknowledge these shortcomings. What was important, he said, was that they were not underpinned by anything resembling consistency. "Dave's great strength", Professor Gunter told Ponting, "is that he never knows with any absolute degree of certainty what he is doing or why he is doing it. Compared with the ideological rigidities of his possible replacement, this makes him eminently worthy of all our support."

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