Go private, principal tells elite

December 5, 2003

England's top universities should leave the state sector and become private institutions if the government really wants them to compete with the best in America, according to a Scottish principal.

Bernard King, principal of the University of Abertay Dundee, said in a graduation address that ministers were "obsessed" by competing with the US.

"We hear a lot of the excellence of Harvard, Yale and Princeton, but the government forgets to mention that these are immensely rich, privately funded institutions, not impoverished publicly funded institutions like universities in Britain," he said.

Top-up fees would never generate the kind of wealth enjoyed by the leading US universities, Professor King said. Princeton charged annual tuition fees of $40,000 (£23,100), while Harvard had some £19 billion-worth of endowments.

But he said that even if all English universities charged the maximum £3,000, they would raise only a "paltry" £1.5 billion a year.

Professor King added that: "If the government genuinely wants England's best to compete with Harvard and Yale, they must be funded like Harvard and Yale, and that means privatisation. Ministers are misleading the public to suggest otherwise.

"But the government insists in this context that higher education is a public good and will not permit privatisation, directly contradicting its own "private good' argument in favour of a market in top-up fees."

Parents who spent £20,000 or more a year on private school education would consider spending similar sums to send their children to an elite university, Professor King said.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns