All kinds of win

April 21, 2011

It is now clear that the government's plans for funding English universities are in deep trouble. I believe that there is now only one remedy, and that involves the private sector.

Upfront fees would relieve the public sector deficit immediately. But what should universities charge? The most reliable figure for their current marginal rate is the overseas student fee, which is typically £10,500 for undergraduate courses, financially guaranteed. Thus, if admission were carried out "needs blind", it could be possible for those students whose parents, grandparents or guardian angels could afford it to pay fees at a level above the current maximum but not above the overseas rate. The attraction for them would be the avoidance of debt; the attraction for universities would be a stream of income not at the behest of government or its agencies; the attraction for the nation would be a reduction in public sector debt.

Furthermore, this approach would reverse the trend of successive governments transferring costs from one generation to the next. I think it could be described as a win-win-win situation. Furthermore, "rich kids" would not keep poor ones out, as the process would apply only after admission.

Raoul Franklin, Vice-chancellor, City University London, 1978-98

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