Iron emancipator

April 18, 2013

Sir Peter Scott’s and John Akker’s wholly dismal view of Margaret Thatcher’s impact on the sector (“Split persists on Thatcher legacy”, 11 April) may not be shared by all those who were working in UK higher education in the 1980s, particularly those promoting the cause of the polytechnics.

The 1988 Education Reform Act finally abolished tenure in the universities; however, it also freed polytechnics and colleges from local education authorities’ stultifying political and financial control, and paved the way for John Major’s later creation of the post-1992 universities.

Although not fully welcomed by some in the traditional sector, the post- 92s facilitated a major (and largely beneficial) expansion of higher education, albeit at the expense of a reduction in the unit of resource in the medium term. Most new universities have gone on to develop courses, research and international roles that would have been unthinkable had local authority control persisted.

Neil Macfarlane
Emeritus professor
School of Science and Technology
Nottingham Trent University


You missed a key part of Thatcher’s legacy in the academy. Her activities in government inspired a generation of student protesters, most of whom are highly unlikely ever to vote Tory as a result. In short, while as Norman Lamont noted there is no gain without pain, in the longer term Thatcher promoted the future of the ideas and people she disliked most.

Keith Flett

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride