Far from the final word on Browne's review 1

October 21, 2010

There is a serious contradiction at the heart of Lord Browne of Madingley's review of higher education ("Lord of the market: let competition and choice drive quality", 14 October).

On the one hand, Browne says that his proposals rely on student choice "to drive up quality" because "they will decide where the funding should go; and institutions will compete to get it".

On the other hand, Browne doesn't trust universities to rise to the free-market challenge; he intends that the proposed Higher Education Council set and enforce "minimum quality levels across the whole sector".

His report lacks the courage of its avowedly free-market convictions.

If Parliament is unable to address the fundamental flaw in Browne's Janus-faced review, the enervating tension generated by the pull of the free market and the restraint of the regulator's nannying hand will create a situation in which only those universities that can declare themselves totally independent of the state will be able to differentiate themselves convincingly in the marketplace.

David Head, Dean, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Lincoln.

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