Different market 2

September 29, 2006

Terence Kealey and other advocates of market-based solutions to education are correct to point out that a genuine free market in education will result in some universities going bankrupt. But such advocates are less forthcoming on the likely consequences.

If the local car dealer or greengrocer goes bankrupt, while it might be inconvenient, it is not necessarily a blow to local citizens or to local or national policy. But if the local college or university goes belly up, this may well be a serious blow to citizens and to policymakers. The institution may not reopen, the building and land may be sold, or it may be taken over by virtually any businessperson who can claim convincingly that they can provide education services. Political expedience is likely to mean that any new owner's credentials will not be subject to too much scrutiny, nor will their commitment to maintain the pay and conditions of existing employees.

Local citizens, policy-makers or the staff will have no say in the outcome. Some fat cats will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Steve Fleetwood
Lancaster University

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