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Baroness Sharp of Guilford

(Elected 2005)

Baroness Sharp of Guildford is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for further education, higher education and skills in the House of Lords. A vocal campaigner on the needs of part-time students, she helped secure concessions from the Government that ensured part-time students were not forgotten in the higher education bill.

‘My admiration for Birkbeck and its students stems from the fact that studying for a degree part-time, after a full day’s work, is a tough way to do it,’ she says.

‘I realised this when I was teaching at LSE in the 1960s, and 40 years on, it remains the tough way but also the sensible way of seeking to widen participation and open the doors to lifelong learning.’

‘It was because the Government’s white paper on higher education of 2003 lacked this vision and made not even one mention of the part-time route to degrees that I took up the cudgels on behalf of part-timers. To add insult to injury, the Government also proposed a system of up-front loans to pay the fees of full-timers, loans which were not available to part-timers.

‘Together with colleagues in the House of Lords, where Birkbeck has many friends, we were able to soften the pill a little, but we continue to battle against this overt discrimination and try to instil into ministers the need for a far more flexible approach to higher education which embraces part-time education rather than leaves it on the side-lines, if they are to realise their ambitions on widening participation.’

After graduating with a BA Economics at Newnham College, Cambridge in 1960, Baroness Sharp launched a career in academia as a lecturer at LSE in 1964, where she spent 15 years in the Science Policy Research Unit. She served as a research fellow at Sussex University between 1981 and 1999, and from 1992 to 1999 she was Director of the Economic and Social Research Council, which funds research and training in social and economic issues.

Baroness Sharp unsuccessfully contested the Guildford constituency for the now defunct SDP-Liberal Alliance in 1983 and 1987, also fighting the same seat in 1992 and 1997 for the Liberal Democrats. In 1998 she was appointed to the Lords.

Her published work includes The State, the Enterprise and the Individual (1974) and Technology Policy in the European Union (1998), plus numerous articles and chapters on science and technology policy.