Lord MandelsonGordon Brown has announced the merging of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to create a new department: the Department for Business and Skills, headed by Lord Mandelson.

The Prime Minister said that gathering the academics and skills with the business sector would benefit the country in the current recession.

Lord Mandelson becomes the first secretary of state. John Denham, former secretary for the Dius has become Communities secretary.

The skills department, which was created shortly after Gordon Brown became prime minister, is the shortest live department of stats in UK history.

Critics have called the move ‘unhelpful’, with the Association of Colleges describing the move untimely: “In the middle of a recession and with less than a year to run to an election it’s unhelpful to introduce this degree of change in terms of ministerial responsibility”.

General secretary Sally Hunt, General secretary of the UCU lecturers union said she was concerned that the “merger seems to signal that further and higher education are no longer considered important enough to have a department of their own”.

“The fact they have been lumped in with business appears to be a clear signal of how the government views colleges and universities and their main roles in this country.”

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