I predict privatised universities
Higher education is in a state of funding flux. The government has slashed teaching grants by up to 80pc, and is threatening to slaughter the sacred cash cow by limiting the number of overseas students that universities can recruit. Any extra money is meant to be coming from increased tuition fees of up to £9,000. But any institution wanting to charge between £6,000-9,000 per year will have to jump through a veritable dog agility assault course of hoops and hurdles before permission is granted.
Put yourself in the esteemed offices of those who run Oxford, Cambridge, LSE or UCL. Do they really have the will to broaden access to HE? Is it in their interests to hunt down the young people with 'potential' from poorer backgrounds, or will they prefer to continue to take the safe option of recruiting from top public schools, where straight-A* students are almost certain to settle in quickly and continue to get good grades? And, frankly, is it really fair for those who have paid £9,000 a year for the privilege of an Oxbridge education to study alongside someone with considerably less impressive A-level grades, who has had their fees subsidised as part of a social experiment? Talk about breeding resentment.
I can see only one result: 'top' universities will go private. I'm not sure how far down the line it will occur. The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a high performer, and demands strong grades from its applicants. But it is also building lasting links with its community to widen access - for example in its support and co-sponsorship of City Academy Norwich and its joint bid (with City College Norwich) to set up one of Britain's first university technical colleges. Maybe it will fall just outside the block of universities that opt out of state support.
But I am convinced that privatisation is coming for the 'elite' universities. They will then be free from government insistence on widening access and free to charge fees at whatever level the market will allow.
posted on 23 February 2011 10:22 bySteve Downes