Leader: Keep the bonfire going

June 18, 2004

The good news is that the cost of red tape in English higher education has fallen by a quarter since 2000. The bad news is that the bill still amounts to £211 million - and the funding council regards this as a conservative estimate. A 25 per cent reduction is no mean feat (although it begs questions about the need for much previous regulation) but few in universities and colleges will be surprised to learn that what remains is so substantial.

Perhaps because British politicians are uncomfortable with the concept of independent institutions receiving such large sums from the public purse, the higher education sector has been a prime example of overregulation.

From unnecessarily bureaucratic quality assurance to the micromanagement of risk assessments and monitoring of every conceivable type, the burden has been out of all proportion to genuine needs. The review group suggests that the corner has been turned, but there is a long way to go.

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