Education 'must emerge as UK's stock in trade'

Universities' current charitable model of governance will prevent them from taking advantage of the higher education boom in emerging economies, David Willetts has argued.

October 25, 2012

The universities and science minister encouraged UK institutions to create stock market-listed subsidiaries that can offer educational services to rapidly growing higher education systems such as that of Indonesia.

In London on 17 October at the conference Exporting Excellence: Capitalising on the Global Value of UK Education, Mr Willetts said that emerging economies needed an "education offer" from the UK that was "seriously ambitious".

This might involve expertise in developing campuses, training academics, providing student accommodation or creating internationally recognised qualifications, he said.

Most UK universities were run along a charitable, trustee model, where governors aimed to "pass it on in something like this form ... to the next generation".

"That is a perfectly legitimate model for running a university," Mr Willetts said, acknowledging that this was the model under which most universities would continue to be run.

But he added that the trustee model "isn't really relevant when the Indonesians come and say: 'We have 250,000 extra undergraduates a year; how are you going to help?' It's not relevant for that kind of massive educational and business opportunity."

For this kind of expansion into emerging markets "you need flows of capital, and it's hard to see how that can be publicly financed".

"You need some of the classic features of a commercial organisation, and it's fair to say that Pearson (the education and publishing giant) is our biggest single educational export business," Mr Willetts said.

Universities could adopt an "enterprise" model or they could try to combine the "enterprise" model with a trustee set-up.

"You can have an enterprise, [stock market] quoted, limited company subsidiary of a trustee model university," he speculated.

"We need to create some space in our British higher education sector for that enterprise model to flourish," Mr Willetts told delegates.

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

  • Boats docked in Port Hercule, Monaco

Richard Murphy praises a bold effort to halt tax-dodging by the 1 per cent

It’s a question with no easy answer, finds James Derounian

  • James Fryer illustration (19 November 2015)

With no time for proper peer review and with grade inflation inevitable, one academic felt compelled to resign

  • Lisa Mckenzie, Class War Party candidate, Chingford

Anarchist academic reflects on what her recent brush with the law says about threats to academic freedom

  • Worker checks thin-film silicon solar module, Truebbach

Asia doubles representation while European countries face varied performance