CAN ANYONE explain to me what is wrong with an academic transfer market? Does anyone argue that the transfer market in football, which facilitates the rise of a handful of top clubs, should be scrapped, or that Wigan should compete on the same grounds as Manchester United? Of course not, unless we have given up all hope of winning the European Cup.
The academic transfer market facilitates the transfer of elite academics to elite departments, while ensuring that they are paid more than their colleagues. Only in this way can the United Kingdom hope to have a handful of institutions competing with the best in North America and to have the best talent stay in the country. Those departments that cannot or will not play the game will decline and in many cases will deserve to do so.
Some may argue that the academic market is special. If so, they should spell out why this should shelter them from the competitive forces that are a factor of life for most other professions. This is not to say that the market should be unregulated. Football again provides a precedent for a transfer deadline, which is presumably operated to prevent desperate clubs inflating prices to unsustainable levels.
John Hudson Reader in economics Department of economics and international development University of Bath