Private ventures ripe for failure

July 28, 2016

Despite the threats that higher education faces from Brexit, and opposition from across the sector, the government appears to be committed to pushing ahead with its disastrous Higher Education and Research Bill (“HE Bill passes second reading as Greening makes case for reforms”, News, 28 July).

This can only be explained by the government’s desire to expand the role of alternative providers into the sector, which is clearly the bill’s main purpose. To this end, quality assurance bodies and regulations will be abolished and the hurdle for attaining university status drastically lowered, allowing private firms – whether existing ones or new ones funded by venture capital – to receive government-backed fees and loans. Meanwhile, provisions are being made for the “market exit” of universities, either because they will be undercut as private firms cherry-pick cheap-to-provide courses and provide second-rate student experiences, or because private ventures will themselves collapse.

This is a recipe for a disastrous market failure, as in the US and Australia. In the US, in May 2015, after a $30m (£22.8m) court fine for fraud, Corinthian Colleges filed for bankruptcy, closing 91 colleges and leaving 110,000 students deeply indebted without courses or degrees. That June, the federal government announced it would forgive the loans of Corinthian’s defrauded students, at a cost of up to $3.5bn. In Australia, meanwhile, further education has been exposed to private-sector cherry-picking by institutions that offered inducements for students to sign up for government loans for courses that they never intended to pursue. Competition has seen the bad drive out the good, with disastrous consequences for students and public finances.

Britain has already experienced similar scandals caused by the weakening of regulation. Examples include the 2002 Individual Learning Accounts fiasco, and the crisis in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ finances caused by the first, rapid, poorly regulated expansion of private providers in higher education.

The government’s bill is now in front of the Public Bill Committee. We urge colleagues to submit evidence to it before 18 September. We also invite all colleagues to the Third Convention on Higher Education in London on 15 October to organise the next phase in our defence of our world-class university system.

Sean Wallis, University College London, UCU NEC
Lee Jones, Queen Mary University of London, Campaign for the Public University, CPU
Dorothy Bishop, University of Oxford, Council for the Defence of British Universities, CDBU
John Holmwood, University of Nottingham, CPU
Rachel Cohen, City University of London, UCU NEC
Tom Hickey, University of Brighton, UCU and CDBU
Anne Sheppard, Royal Holloway, University of London, CDBU
Douglas Chalmers, Glasgow Caledonian University, President, UCU Scotland
Carlo Morelli, University of Dundee, UCU NEC
Marion Hersh, University of Glasgow, UCU NEC
Xanthe Whittaker, University of Leicester, UCU NEC
Patricia McManus, University of Brighton, UCU NEC
David Hardman, London Metropolitan University, London Region UCU
Mark Campbell, London Metropolitan University, London Region UCU
Martin McQuillan, Kingston University, London, CDBU
Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College, University of London
Cathy Bergin, University of Brighton UCU
Jamie Melrose, University of Bristol, Bristol UCU
Ian Hunt, Goldsmiths
Thomas Docherty, University of Warwick
Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London
Andrea Brady, Queen Mary University of London
Jennifer Patterson, University of Greenwich
Lucy Mayblin, University of Sheffield
Mark Holmström, University of East Anglia, retired
G S Ramkissoon, Kingston University, London
Elena Marchevska, London South Bank University
Luke Martell, University of Sussex
Simon Dyson, De Montfort University
Colin Tyler, Hull University
Nicholas Collins, University of Warwick
David Nowell Smith, University of East Anglia
Andreas Bieler, University of Nottingham
Ioana Cerasella Chis, University of Birmingham, student
Paul Blackledge, Leeds Beckett University
Liz Morrish, Nottingham Trent University
Dermot Lynott, Lancaster University
David Adger, Queen Mary University of London
Timo Jätten, University of Essex
Stephen J. Cowley, University of Cambridge
Brian Holton, Edinburgh, Durham, Newcastle, retd.
Alison Jasper, University of Stirling
Wendy Russell, University of Gloucestershire
Justin Cruickshank, University of Birmingham
Simon Sheikh, Goldsmiths, University of London
Stacy Gillis, Newcastle University
Zoë Tew-Thompson, Leeds Beckett University
Nick Ellison, University of York
John Willott, Leeds Beckett University
Kevin Deighton, Leeds Beckett University, UCU
Jennifer Cooke, Loughborough University
Adam Hansen, Northumbria University
Stephen Bates, University of Birmingham
Andreas Vogt, University of Liverpool
Hugh Goodacre, University of Westminster and University College London
Helen Rodgers, Leeds Beckett University
Eric Fraga, University College London
Peter Fifield, Birkbeck College
Michael Bailey, Essex University
Suhail Malik, Goldsmiths, University of London
Kay Peggs, University of Winchester, UCU, CDBU, CPU
Simon Cross, Nottingham Trent University
Rachel Garfield, University of Reading
Sam Marsh, University of Sheffield
Tim May, University of Durham
Lara Montesinos Coleman, University of Sussex
Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds
Karen Evans, University of Liverpool
Lucy Parker, Kingston University, London
Simon Choat, Kingston University, London
Sophie Gamwell, De Montfort University, Leicester
Aidan Byrne, University of Wolverhampton
Martin Paul Eve, Birkbeck College
Ian Revie, University of Edinburgh, retd.
William Outhwaite, Newcastle University, retd.
Maggie Humm, University of East London
David I. Clarke, Newcastle University
Ray Kiely, Queen Mary University of London
Kevin McSorley, University of Portsmouth
James Eastwood, Soas, University of London
Saira Weiner, Liverpool John Moores University
David Wearing, Soas, University of London
Julia Welland, University of Warwick
Kyran Joughin, University of the Arts London
Elizabeth Veal, Newcastle University
Keith Wilson, University of Glasgow
Ian R Lamond, Leeds Beckett University
Meera Sabaratnam, Soas, University of London
Marko Attila Hoare, Kingston University
Liam Campling, Queen Mary University of London
Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Warwick, CPU
Andreas Schonle, Queen Mary University of London
Sarah Leahy, Newcastle University
James Mallinson, Soas, University of London
Ian Parker, University of Leicester
Jon Nixon, The Hong Kong University of Education
Helen Stringer, Newcastle University
Katja Laug, University of Warwick
Alex Latham, University of Sussex
Marina Vishmidt, University of Brighton
Bob Brecher, University of Brighton
Lucie Clapp, University College London
Jo Hassall, Leeds Beckett University
Sarah Hayden, University of Southampton
Kaveh Boveiri, Université de Montréal
James Cussens, University of York
Owen Miller, Soas, University of London
Phil Taylor, University of Strathclyde
Dermot O’Reilly, Lancaster University
Geoff Abbott, Newcastle University
William McEvoy, University of Sussex
Adam Gearey, Birkbeck College
Christopher Fox, Brunel University
Alpesh Maisuria, University of East London
Lori Allen, Soas, University of London
Alen Toplisek, Queen Mary University of London
Richard Hall, De Montfort University, Leicester
Patricia Findlay, University of Strathclyde
John Holford, University of Nottingham
Astrid Kohler, Queen Mary University of London
Aaron Cassidy, University of Huddersfield
Julie Hearn, Lancaster University, UCU NEC
John Allen, University College London, retd.
John Croft, Brunel University
David Sergeant, Plymouth University
Peter Eckersley, Newcastle University
JH Reynolds, Kingston University, London
Paul Webb, University of Sussex
Momin Rahman, Trent University, Canada
David McCallam, University of Sheffield
Marian Mayer, Bournemouth University
Vincent Quinn, University of Sussex
John Snijders, Durham University
Susan Barnet, Central St Martins, University of the Arts, London
Rebecca Searle, University of Brighton
David Colquhoun FRS, University College London
Fruela Fernandez, Newcastle University
Andrew Louth, Durham University, retd.
Leon Sealey-Huggins, University of Warwick
John Bryan, University of Huddersfield
Ray Bush, University of Leeds
James Benedict Brown, De Montfort University
Sarah Amsler, University of Lincoln
Barry Smart, University of Portsmouth
Lisa Tilley, University of Warwick
Alistair Jump, University of Stirling
Adrian Budd, Head of Social Sciences Division, London South Bank University
Amber Jacobs, Birkbeck College
Andrea Bernardi, Manchester Metropolitan University
Rowan Tomlinson, University of Bristol
Tim Gorringe, University of Exeter, retd,
Trevor Hussey, University of Oxford, retd.
Shereen Benjamin, University of Edinburgh
Jennet Thomas, University of the Arts London
Charlie Louth, University of Oxford
Paula Smithard, University of the Arts London
Patrick Ainley, University of Greenwich
Thom Scott-Phillips, Durham University
Jonathan Preminger, Cardiff University
Galia Kollectiv, University of Reading
Pil Kollectiv, University of Reading
Martin Fry, University College London
Viv Kendon, Durham University
Penny C S Andrews, University of Sheffield
Michael Costen, former Dean, University of Bristol
Patricia Alessandrini, University of London
Chris Redfern, Newcastle University
David Stewart, Newcastle University
Newton Armstrong, City University London
Rob Gawthrop, Falmouth University
Malcolm Raeburn, University of Salford
Nalini Vittal, University College London
Steve Vincent, Newcastle University
James Ladyman, University of Bristol
John Child, University of Sussex
Lisa Smyth, Queen’s Univesity Belfast
Jo Frankham, Liverpool John Mooores University
Howard Hotson, University of Oxford
Peter Wilson, London School of Economics
Richard Dixon-Payne, London Metropolitan University
Alun Coker, University College London
Jack Newsinger, University of Leicester
Rachel Rosen, University College London
Jeff Hearn, University of Huddersfield
Lynne Pettinger, University of Warwick
Richard Young, Newcastle University
Andrew Goffey, University of Nottingham
Sharon Kivland, Sheffield Hallam University
Daniel Nehring, University of Worcester
Craig Martin, University of Edinburgh
Barry Smart, University of Portsmouth
Gilda Williams, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Alun Hughes, University College London
Ben Davies, University of Portsmouth
Franziska Meyer, University of Nottingham
Conrad Leyser, Worcester College, Oxford
Carl Faia, Brunel University London
Helen Johnson, University of Brighton
Nicholas Lawrence, University of Warwick
P McCarthy, Sheffield Hallam University
Pat Devine, University of Manchester
Karenza Moore, Lancaster University
Jo Frankham, Liverpool John Moores University
Paul Reynolds, Edge Hill University
Hartmut Logemann, University of Bath
Sam Hayden, Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London
Rinella Cere, Sheffield Hallam University
Reinhard Bachmann, Soas
Mark Gallagher, University of Nottingham
Andrew Leak, University College London
Sara Maioli, Newcastle University
Andrew Sayer, Lancaster University
Paul Attinello, Newcastle University
Giulia Zampini, University of Greenwich
Professor, Alison Sealey, Lancaster University
Nicola Pratt, University of Warwick
Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick
Rose Butler, Sheffield Hallam University
Jonathan Long, Leeds Beckett University
Laura Schwartz, University of Warwick
Ruth Dar, University College London
Adam Brandt, Newcastle University
Christopher J Hall, York St John University
Katherine Angel, Kingston University
Mary Rose, Lancaster University, retd.
Peter Flett, University of Strathclyde
Michael Loughlin, Manchester Metropolitan University
David Farmer, Leeds Beckett University

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