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Colleges feel left out of Dearing HE review

One headteacher and one student are to serve on the Government's National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, whose membership was announced last week.

But further education colleges - which account for 10 per cent of the places in higher education - are unrepresented. Or rather, they will be shortly, when one of the members, Sir William Stubbs, leaves his post as chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council to become rector of the London Institute, part of the University of London.

That gap in the inquiry's membership was attacked this week by Dick Evans, principal of Stockport College, which is the second largest FE provider of higher education. Dr Evans said he was "very disappointed" that the committee's 17 members did not truly represent either the heart of further education or even the heart of state secondary education.

Mrs Pamela Morris, the only headteacher on the committee, is head of the Blue School, a large comprehensive with a flourishing sixth form in Wells in Somerset.

The committee, which is of course to be chaired by Sir Ron Dearing, has the task of redesigning higher education in Britain for the next 20 years. Its membership, dominated by vice-chancellors and the heads of large public companies, was broadly welcomed by the vice-chancellors' committee and the Labour party, who had been invited to submit names.

David Blunkett, Labour education spokesman, expressed his pleasure that the membership "had been developed in the same spirit of bi-partisanship which had accompanied the establishment of the inquiry itself".

In other words, Labour is happy with its share of the nominees. These are known to include the strong-minded Sir Geoffrey Holland, vice-chancellor of Exeter University and former permanent secretary at the Department of Education, and Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, a Labour peer who as Brenda Dean was head of the print union SOGAT.

Also a Labour nominee is the only male member of the committee who is neither doctor nor professor nor knight: plain Mr Simon Wright, education and welfare officer of the students' union at the University of Wales College of Cardiff a 23-year-old graduate in law and sociology.

The committee's terms of reference say it should have regard, "within the constraints of the Government's other spending priorities and affordability, " to the principles of maximum participation in initial higher education by young and mature students and in lifetime learning by adults.

Standards of degrees and other higher education qualifications should be at least maintained and learning should be increasingly responsive to employment needs.

Arrangements for student support should be "fair and transparent", the terms of reference say. But they do not mention support for 16-to-18 year olds.

Who's who on the HEreview committee

Sir Ron Dearing (chairman);

Professor John Arbuthnott, principal and vice-chancellor of Strathclyde University;

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde Judith Evans, director of corporate personnel, Sainsbury; Sir Ron Garrick, managing director and chief executive of Weir Group, the engineering company; Sir Geoffrey Holland, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter; Professor Diana Laurillard, pro-vice-chancellor of the Open University; Pamela Morris, headteacher, the Blue School, Wells; Sir Ronald Oxburgh, rector of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine; Dr David Potter, chairman of Psion plc, the information technology company; Sir George Quigley, chairman, Ulster Bank; Sir William Stubbs, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council and rector designate of the London Institute; Sir Richard Sykes, deputy chairman and chief executive of Glaxo-Wellcome plc, the pharmaceuticals group; Professor David Watson, director of the University of Brighton; Professor Sir David Weatherall, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University; Professor Adrian Webb, vice-chancellor of the University of Glamorgan; Simon Wright, Students' Union, the University of Wales College of Cardiff.

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