Different market 1

September 29, 2006

What is most depressing about the discussion of market forces in UK higher education ("Bankruptcies on the cards" and Opinion, September 22) is the simplistic terms in which it is being conducted by people who should know better.

There is substantial literature and considerable experience of market forces in higher education in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

While there are benefits in terms of increased efficiency in resource use, too great a degree of marketisation leads ultimately to even greater inequalities of resourcing and esteem between different categories of students and institutions and leads to a reduction in diversity and student choice. Higher education is not the same kind of product as those on which conventional economic theories about the market are based.

We must move the debate on to a more sophisticated discussion about how, through public policy, we can get the best match between market forces and public interests.

Roger Brown
Vice-chancellor, Southampton Solent University

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