Ministers rack up ideological own goals

April 26, 2018

Two recent news stories show just how far the government is prepared to go in sacrificing the international good standing of UK higher education on the altar of neoliberal market ideology.

Even after all the dilutions of the criteria for university title that have been made or announced since 2010, it still comes as a shock to find two football training academies being allowed to use the word “university” (“DfE accused of ‘contempt’ for university title rules”, 19 April). Is there nothing that ministers will not do to expose the legitimate part of the sector to yet more competition, whether it is in the interests of UK higher education or not?

Meanwhile, the article “Open University’s second-chance model ‘may already be gone’” (19 April) shows how a major part of the OU’s problems is directly related to the post-2012 funding regime. Again, what would it take to persuade ministers that such a valuable institution should be protected in the interest of having a genuinely diverse and accessible system?

Sir David Watson, the late and much-missed former vice-chancellor of the University of Brighton, would often declare that you should never say, “I told you so.” Some of us have been warning for years that the outcomes of marketising higher education would be very different from those predicted by textbooks on classical economic theory. It is nevertheless dispiriting to be proven right quite so soon.

Roger Brown
Former vice-chancellor, Solent University and former chief executive, Higher Education Quality Council


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