Money for old rope

August 9, 2012

There is no evidence that private sector competition drives up academic standards, but there is clear evidence that it drives up fees. Wherever a limited supply of a desirable commodity - such as places at Yale University - is introduced into an open market, the richest buyers will drive its price up to levels only they can afford.

In the US, the more expensive the university, the higher the average mark - the average in private universities is now A-minus. Why is grade inflation linked with fee inflation? If you pay more than $200,000 (£129,000) for a four-year degree, you will want a good one. Ignore this demand and levels of "student satisfaction" will plummet. The US' private universities do not have to employ external examiners to maintain standards across the system, so nothing stops them from awarding higher and higher grades. So the effect of introducing market forces is the opposite of what the coalition claims to want - academic standards are debased.

Will Podmore, Wanstead, London

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