Why the NHS is a perverse role model

October 18, 1996

David Albury proposes a radical restructuring of academic life. Staff would become independent contractors, who bid for work from managers, who would specify courses and research programmes to meet market needs.

I am sure that other readers will comment on the educational issues, but perhaps I could draw a parallel with the NHS. This was, after all, mentioned in his article.

The NHS was reformed in a rather similar way some years ago, though with the express aim (significantly, not mentioned directly by Albury) of creating a market in public health care.

Thus there was the split into purchasers and providers. I think it would be fair to say that this experiment has not been a great success.

It is certainly clear that bureaucracy has increased and that the various players in the game have taken rather narrow views of their roles. Whether the hidden hand of the market has delivered benefits to patients seems an open question. Given that this was one aim of the reforms, it is an important question to face.

So what benefits would flow to students and consumers of research from Albury's proposals? I am not sure that I can think of any and it would seem perverse to repeat an unsuccessful experiment in these circumstances.

Mike Pidd Department of management science, Lancaster University.

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