Higher education provision is an essential component (socially as well as ecomically) of modern social structures. The British Labour Party and Higher Education focuses on the development of the Labour Party's policy on higher education from 1945 to 2000. It analyses the rapid expansion and series of fundamental transformations in higher education and Labour's part in both shaping and reacting to them. The authors explore the historical evolution and Labour's varying policy initiatives in the period, and question the place higher education has occupied in the various strands of Labour ideology. As always with Labourism', perspectives are contentious and contested, spanning the centralist Fabians', the liberal moralists, and the socialist left. How far, if at all, have Labour's policy stances in this area confronted the elite social reproduction functions of universities or the instrumentalist needs of corporate capitalism? Has this policy evolution given concrete evidence to support (Ralph) Miliband's pessimistic assessment of Labourism' as a political formation structurally unable to confront capitalist social structures, or to see a viable Third Way', as advocated by New Labour?
Tom Steele is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, UK, where he was formerly Reader in History and Theory of Adult Education. Richard Taylor was formerly Professor of Education and Director of the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, UK.