So DIUS is dead and we have to get used to BIS – well for another twelve months maybe. The logic of another big reorganisation so soon after the establishment of DIUS rather escapes me, other than wondering if the creation of such a mega-department is a reflection of the price Gordon Brown was prepared to pay for the Dark Lord’s (Mandelson’s not Voldemort’s – so far as we know) support. With such a wide brief and a total of 11 ministers (according to The Guardian) one cannot but wonder what the fate of higher education will be. There are seldom budgetary advantages to being lost in the crowd.
At a very basic level I find it depressing that the notion of ‘education’ is now largely invisible in the political landscope. The split of the education brief into two for me was itself quite significant. A symbolic denial of the idea of education as a continuum – so much for a policy setting that at least looked like it could take a cradle-to-grave, lifelong learning, perspective. But by embedding higher education in BIS, the government seems to be sending out a very clear signal that HE really is entirely subservient to the performative, workforce development, agenda. I know we’ve said it before, but what price learning for its own sake now?