In a tough day for the Labour Party, Gordon Brown has managed to keep hold of the reins on the country... for now. The Prime Minister has been encouraged to resign for the good of the party and of the country, following resignations from many key cabinet ministers, including Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears, Geoff Hoon and Margaret Beckett. A cabinet reshuffle sees several new roles, as well as the merger of Education with Business, overseen by Peter Mandelson. Other appointments see potential Party Leader Candidate, Alan Johnson, take up the role of Home Secretary and former Secretary for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, taking over as Communities Secretary.
Today has also seen the results of the Local Elections, which saw many Conservative strong-holds holding elections. These strong-holds have only increased, with the Conservative Party gaining control of 29 of the 30 councils that have released results so far. Labour has lost control of four of these councils, with just 159 Labour Councillors being elected, compared to the 1,330 for the Conservative party; further evidence of a weakening government.
Labour MP, Denis MacShane, ruffled some feathers in the Student Union world by accusing ministers of 'behaving like Student Union Politicians'. NUS Welfare Officer, Ama Uzowuru said she was 'shocked' and imagined that Mr MacShane was 'bitter' while ICU President-elect Ashley Brown said, "that's a really unfair comparison. I can't pay someone to clean my moat and claim it back off the union. I have to pay my own phone bill...". Live! wonders where Mr Brown (Ashley not Gordon) has been hiding his moat and why we haven't been invited.
Less 'Universities' more 'Business'
Slightly overshadowed by the election and cabinet reforms, the Department for Innovation Universities and Skills (DIUS) was today merged with the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to form a new Department for Business Innovation and Skills. This comes only two years after the Department was formed, making it the most shortlived Whitehall Ministery in history. The new Minister responsible for Universities will be Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson.
A notable exclusion from the title of the new Department is the word 'Universities' leaving many to wonder what priorities the current government has for Higher Education. Many have been bitterly disappointed after hoping to see Universities reunited with other educational departments rather than moving further towards the business model. Past ICU President, Stephen Brown, wondered "will DBIS carry out the higher education funding review before or after they privatise Royal Mail!?" while THES (Times Higher Education Supplement) summed up the merger with "Not too sure how to refer to the new department - DBIS sounds too much like a rapper when said out loud.."
LibDem MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Phil Willis lashed out saying, "the real casualty of this ill-thought out re-organisation of DIUS/BERR is the nation's strategic science base". As Chairman of the now defunct Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee he played tribute to his committee members in his twitter feed, thanking them for their commitment. He also went on to say "[I] will be writing to the leader of the House to ask for consideration to be given to the creation of a Science & Engineering Committee."
The Higher Education Trade Union, UCU, has also opposed the move with Sally Hunt saying, "UCU is very concerned that this merger seems to signal that further and higher education are no longer considered important enough to have a department of their own. Education has the power to change people?s lives and if we are serious about the important role it can play in helping us out of recession then we need experts in education at the helm, not business interests. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with, and assurances from, the minister that both further and higher education have clear and defined roles in the new department." Live! favourite, Les Ebdon, also jumped on the bandwagon agreeing that "I?m sorry that the opportunity has not been taken to reunite universities with other parts of education. The new department faces immediate challenges, in particular the tens of thousands of potential students who will be turned away because there are no places for them at university this year. If the new department is serious about skills it will find the additional places needed."