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

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