Political lobby

December 8, 2011

It's a bit late to start worrying about a possible fall in state school applications to more selective institutions as more students choose to study at home to reduce costs ("Elite fear fall in applications will hit access effort", 1 December). Aren't these the same institutions that pressed for the complete removal of the fee cap a la Browne?

Whatever the impact of the new funding regime on access, the Browne report and the government's response to it show once again the political effectiveness of the UK's would-be "world-class" institutions. In return for acquiescing in the continuation of the fee cap and for supporting the whole post-Browne package, these institutions gain substantially higher fees, effective release from student number controls, some direct state finance for many "strategic and vulnerable" subjects, plus continuing protection for their research (including the extra £200 million lobbed into science research and development by the Autumn Statement). They are also the intended beneficiaries of the proposed "light-touch" risk-based quality assurance regime.

This is not a bad outcome for them from years of lobbying for special status, but not a great result for the sector as a whole.

Roger Brown, Professor of higher education policy, Liverpool Hope University

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