Let's throw away Greenaway

July 14, 2000

Asking students to shell out thousands of pounds for their degrees is foolhardy and inequitable. The Greenaway report rightly acknowledges that higher education is in the grip of a funding crisis, but the solution will not be found by selling degrees. Only the rich could afford to buy them and only the most confident risk running up large debts. Access to higher education would inevitably be even more distorted than it already is. The report breathtakingly claims scholarships to help the poor might be top sliced from income. Would rich students cheerfully pay the 40 per cent premium that would require?

More honestly, the report invites government to pick up the equality bill. So much for the free market. And is that any more politically realistic? Was not Gordon Brown's concern over Laura Spence a pre-emptive strike precisely to prevent Oxbridge from threatening to support top-up fees? Where is the market research showing students would be prepared to pay, say, Pounds 30,000 to go to Leeds rather than Pounds 3,075 to go to Leeds Met? The fact is there is hardly any support for top-up fees.

Winning better government funding will not be achieved by crude threats to go private. It might be achieved by the sector uniting in putting a decent case, appealing to the government's concern for economic advantage, expansion and, above all, equity.

Tom Wilson Head of universities department Natfhe

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