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Lib Dem education policy & the agenda of Lib Dem sugardaddy Paul Marshall

Bullshit-Detector | 11.11.2010 19:28 | Education | Public sector cuts | Social Struggles

The Lib Dem's went into the last election on a ticket that they opposed any increase in student fees, which, as is now widely known, they have done a u-turn on in the new Con-Dem coalition.

That's what they say. So, why was their main thinktank - funded and chaired by hedge fund speculator and founder of the ARK academy network Paul Marshall - arguing for an increase in student fees as far back as March 2006? Marshall is a special advisor to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. The chameleon-like nature of the Lib-Dems and what they supposedly stand for not only rings even more hollow but is further exposed as being as slippery as the lizard skin of their wealthy benefactors.

In the words of Centre Forum - the Lib Dem Thinktank, providing the ideological doublespeak justification for the increase in student fees (from their website):
"Extending educational opportunities requires us to better direct public expenditure to those who most need it. Hence [their report] 'Open universities: a funding strategy for higher education' made the case for an increase in private payment, and a decrease in public subsidy, to free up scare resources to invest in early years education."

Paul Marshall, director of Hedge Fund Marshall Wace, is a major donator to the Libs Dems, and most significantly, donated £1 million to Centre Forum, and is chair of the Centre Forum Management Board and the Liberal Democrat Business Forum, and is special advisor to Nick Clegg. Marshall also co-edited the controversial The Orange Book in 2004, which contained essays championing pro-market policies. Marshall is also co-founder of charity ARK which is running one of the biggest academy chains in Britain. They currently run 6 schools (including the controversial Wembley Park academy in Brent*) and aim to run 12 by 2012.
[* ref to film about Wembley Park Academy by Jason Parkinson given below]

Hence, why the Centre Forum has also led the calls for the school system to be opened up to new providers. From their website: "The practical benefits of supply side liberalisation were set out in an essay collection entitled Academies and the future of state education which brought together some of the most successful school leaders in the country, as well as Andrew Adonis, the minister responsible for the academy programme at the time."

What interest would Marshall have in influencing policy towards increasing student fees? Centre Forum themselves state that "fees are unlikely to restrict access to higher education because cost is not what is keeping the majority of bright but poor children out of the system". This is partly true, hence their argument to increase investment in early years education which has become Lib Dem and now Con-Dem policy. However, it is a deceitful oversimplication. The rational seems likely to be to reduce public spending to consolidate the further class divide in UK society, by reducing opportunities for the poorest to advanced education, justified on the back on increasing overall educational attainment across the board (& bored). It is justified by Centre Forum who say that increasing fees will bring us up into parity with Australia, New Zealand and the United States, each of which charges significantly more for higher education than the UK. In ideological terms, the argument seems to be that this social welfare subsidy is not justified in the long-term development of a market economy like the UK. In practical terms, educational streaming, which is likely to become more advanced in academies as opposed to LEA controlled schools, is quite possibly a tool which will create a social learning environment more conducive to separating students for university from students going down a more vocational route. Additionally, the rational to shift resources from higher education to early education, which of course is more pronounced with the meltdown in public finances, seems also to be one which is compatible with the academy programme in that public subsidy funds are guaranteed for academy schools as with the whole primary education sector, which is of help with their immediate business model.

* For more info about the ARK academy in Wembley Park and the financial hegemony behind the new wave of academies ie. privatisation masquarding behind the thinly veiled conceit of the new philanthropic charitable trust business model, see this excellent video about the campaign against Wembley Park Academy by Jason Parkinson:

More info: ARK Briefing: