It seemed odd when universities were given their own mini-department under John Denham. Remember the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills? It lasted a matter of months before being sucked into the giant Business, Innovation and Skills department. But at least with a Cabinet-level representative, universities had a voice at the top table.
University vice-chancellors have rightly questioned
the wisdom of cuts to Britain's academic institutions. New Labour is no stranger to philistinism, but this really would be an appalling legacy. Already university students have fulfilled their part of the bargain with government by stacking up debt with an ever-diminishing prospect of employment. Are we seriously suggesting that the next generation of student should hock themselves to the eyeballs in underfunded universities with no guarantee of a return on their investment.
I have previously expressed by doubts about the wisdom of Peter Mandelson's return to frontline UK politics (Labour's performance in the polls has nosedived and the party has become ever more sectarian since he came back).
History will judge whether the rehabilitation of Mandelson was a success for anyone other than the man himself. But if the university cuts are carried through, BIS may end up being the very symbol of vainglorious empire-building at the expense of the next generation.