In 1981, for the first time in its history, the University Grants Committee decided that financial cuts should not create "equal misery", but be differentially directed. The major cuts - much greater than any of the proposed ones that are supposedly putting the future of certain universities at risk today - fell on the former Colleges of Advanced Technology (CATs), which lost up to 40 per cent of their income. Yet each found a collegial solution to its problems, so that 28 years later they all prosper. There is a lesson here for today's financial "failures", none of which is in as dire a situation as the ex-CATs were in 1981, but whose problems are being tackled via top-down managerialism.
Lewis Elton Honorary professor of higher education, University College London.