He who pays the cost calls the tune

December 1, 2000

The London Economics report on higher education funding, which calculates that the sector needs an extra £1.4 billion a year from 2004, rising to £1.6 billion extra in 2009, focuses vice-chancellors' minds on the links between funding and who controls the university sector.

The issue is of major importance at a time when many in higher education feel that central government is extending its control over the sector.

Government has increasingly attached strings to the public money it disburses. Added to this, the Teaching and Higher Education Act effectively prevents universities setting their tuition fees.

At present, says the report, students are paying something towards their education but have seen little increase in their control over course provision in return. Control has been retained by the government.

The key to empowering students as consumers of higher education, and universities as suppliers, is to let more money follow the student. This can be achieved through increased tuition fees and/or income-contingent loans. In both cases, students would pay more in return for increased influence.

An extreme scenario would be a free market voucher system with full-cost fees financed by private loans or from the public purse, with universities setting course prices and student numbers. Control is maximised for students and universities. If private loans are taken out though, students pay dearly for their increased control.

A graduate tax would do little to increase student or university control since the government would decide how the money should be spent out of general taxation. The same is true of an endowment fund, the report says.

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

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
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

hole in ground

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