Playground for the rich

March 11, 2010

James Stanfield has come up with an interesting idea that universities should be expected to raise money locally, rather than receive it from the Treasury (a "public subsidy", as he calls it) ("Taxpayer beware: the hidden costs of public funding's helping hand", 4 March).

Perhaps it would be good to extend this idea. Why not get the Army to go around cap in hand to beg for money to pay for defence, or the police to ask for contributions to fighting crime, or the judiciary for courts and prisons?

Clearly this is highly inefficient - how much would it cost to raise money in this way? Many people would be likely to say: "Well, I don't need to pay as others will", or "Will you give my child a place at your university if I give you a bit more?"

Why does Stanfield believe that this would lead to greater autonomy when we have seen the influence pharmaceutical and tobacco funding has had on research?

A large part of the purpose of income tax is to bolster equality. Privatise funding and universities would once again become a playground for the rich (and an exceptionally bright chosen few). That is not a world I want to live in: I'd rather pay more tax.

Tom Franklin, Tom Franklin Consulting.

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