Which government department takes responsibility for higher education is beside the point, it’s what politicians do there that matters.
The head of steam has finally blown the gasket. The pressure that had been mounting for several years to plonk higher education policy back alongside other education matters within Whitehall has triumphed. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is dead; long live the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The shifting of higher education policy in England over to the Department for Education was not inevitable, but it was still no great surprise. Recreating a single education behemoth of the sort once presided over by big political figures like Tony Crosland, Shirley Williams and Margaret Thatcher, has been proposed many times in recent years. Moreover, the old business department annoyed Theresa May when she was home secretary, especially when run by that cantankerous Lib Dem, Vince Cable, who could be just as stubborn as the new prime minister herself. The person who lobbied hardest for the change was Michael Gove―perhaps it will seem a silver lining to the clouds that beset his life after he threw his hat into the ring to become prime minister.