Invisible hand is empty

March 3, 2011

Tim Leunig's claim in "Quit the quotas: only competitive tension will keep fees down" (17 February) that more competition almost always brings prices down is contradicted by the history of mis-selling scandals in the financial services. Does he really suppose that 18-year-olds taking out student loans that, they are promised, will have to be repaid only if the "investment" pays off will exert any more market pressure to improve costs and quality than those people mis-sold pensions and endowment mortgages in the past?

Even if we accept this premise, let us consider the corollary. There are far more students wishing to join the universities of Oxford and Cambridge than there are places available, while many other institutions struggle to recruit. Therefore, Oxford and Cambridge should expand and take over most of the higher education provision in the country. This would provide Oxbridge-quality education to all who desire it.

Matthew Huntbach, Queen Mary, University of London

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