Break this cosy cartel

September 16, 2010

It is hard to understand what Paul Benneworth thinks a functioning higher education market should look like ("Higher fees could be the undoing of England's universities", 2 September). He clearly sees it as a problem if different fees are charged for different sorts of course, as he thinks this will reduce student demand. But he is in favour of fees at their present undifferentiated level, apparently forgetting that when they were introduced in 2006, a reduction in student demand was predicted.

Instead, at the last count, there were some 150,000 applicants still looking for a place this autumn. Would some of them have been willing to pay a higher fee to get a place? We don't know. What we can be fairly certain of is that the cosy universities cartel that Benneworth proposes, even if it got past the regulators, would not be in the best interests of students, taxpayers or universities.

Paul Temple, Co-director, Centre for Higher Education Studies, Institute of Education, University of London.

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