Roger Brown (Letters, 18 October) confesses he is fearful lest our most selective universities "detach themselves from direct state funding for teaching". But he does not tell us why.
All UK universities are private institutions. Yet simply because home undergraduates pay their tuition fees at these private establishments out of loans arranged by the UK government, the state insists that the institutions at which they study be subject to a plethora of controls and compliances, many of which have nothing to do with the quality of education taxpayer-funded students enjoy.
A university's primary function is to pursue the truth, not to act, primarily, as an instrument for social change or to function, primarily, as an arm of the national economy. Brown might argue that the receipt of taxpayers' money entitles the state to determine how the sector (in so far as it is state-funded) should be configured. It does not. The receipt of taxpayers' money (albeit indirectly via the Student Loans Company) no more entitles the state to exercise such direction than does the payment of his or her salary entitle the state to mandate the verdicts a judge should bring in and the sentences she or he should impose.
Geoffrey Alderman, University of Buckingham