Common ground

January 18, 2018

I am flattered to be the target of a letter from Roger Brown (again). But he exaggerates the differences between us. For example, we share a concern about the dangers of excessive homogeneity in higher education (“Market shocks”, Letters, 11 January).

Glyn Davis, the vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, has recently pointed out that every public university in Australia falls into just one of the seven types of higher education identified in the Carnegie “basic classification”. This is because they are all “doctoral universities”. A comparable critique could be applied to the UK.

I do, however, query Brown’s argument that all the wise heads have long known “increased competition and lower entry barriers nearly always lead to a lowering of institutional, subject and course diversity”. Indeed, on the very next page of last week’s edition of Times Higher Education, Simon Marginson predicted that 2018 will mean a more “tiered English system”.

The US has perhaps the most marketised higher education system in the world. Yet according to one seasoned observer, “rather than consisting of one market of like-minded consumers with similar access to identical goods, the US higher education system comprises of many markets, where very different colleges and universities produce and sell unique commodities to groups of consumers, who may or may not be competing for the same goods”. That claim comes from an excellent book entitled Higher Education and the Market, authored by one Roger Brown.

Nick Hillman
Higher Education Policy Institute

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