The rise of for profit higher education?

As we have noted here recently, the British Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, appears to feel that more private for-profit institutions should be encouraged to play a role in English higher education. For those who may feel, like the Minister, that for-profit colleges will apply a market discipline and bring greater efficiency and choice, it is worth noting recent information coming from America that only 22 per cent of new entrants to such colleges actually graduate within six years. While some of the reasons for this may be related to the backgrounds of the students taken in, it is still an unacceptable performance and should give some considerable cause for concern.

Of course there are some high quality private institutions of this kind, including one or two in Ireland, but across the board there must always be questions about the idea of a ‘university’ that has to organise itself in a way that will secure significant profits and thus dividends for shareholders. I am not against participation in higher education by for-profits, but I would strongly suggest that this is not the answer to almost any issue that is currently of concern to the sector; and furthermore if new private institutions are pushed into the market too aggressively there could be serious problems in the medium term if some of them run into quality issues.

A better model might be for universities to enter into partnerships with some for-profit institutions that can provide services in an appropriately monitored environment.

About these ads
Explore posts in the same categories: higher education

Tags: , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

18 Comments on “The rise of for profit higher education?”

  1. wendymr Says:

    Again, I hope the UK government learns from lessons elsewhere:

    Career College Students’ Crushing Debt Costs Taxpayers Millions.

  2. Vincent Says:

    Future pensions are a far more likely cause for such actions. If you view what they have done with the 2nd level where the Academies take over ‘failing schools’. This has little good accruing to the ‘f s’. Nor do I see kids from such schools being bussed to the facilities at the Academy. So who gets a good out of this. Well the State, eventually. Where it removes all under the current LEA from the exchequer bill.
    And so with the Uni’s. Where is the good. Today there is none. But if the State makes life so difficult for you it will eventually dawn on you that there is a profound shift.
    Trinity has a lot to answer, for she was the very first that didn’t have a huge land bank as an endowment.

  3. copernicus Says:

    Ferdinand

    I am not sure how much you and the other posters here know about the yawning funding gap that exists in HE in the UK, and the underperformance of post-92 universities. If we leave out the headline good news in post-92s like RGU, and look at the problems they have, one sees a different picture, and compare this with U of Aberdeen/St Andrews for example.

    As for “.. it is worth noting recent information coming from America that only 22 per cent of new entrants to such colleges actually graduate within six years”, it is not unique to America, but the very high percentage of clearing running for weeks in post-92s in the UK(e.g.RGU 2-3 weeks, other post-92s 4-5 weeks, you may argue that other pre-92s do but they have not done for the core entrants like the post-92s,and in the same scale, but only for certain cases of a small numbers in the past, and in 2010 there were none in pre-92 universities) getting in students with either very weak A level grades or equivalents or in many cases with no A level passes. In these universities,the drop out rates are around 40%, the progression rate is around the same, and add these two, you will get about the same 20-25% graduation rate. Once you become the VC of RGU, it is worth checking the drop out and progression rates there with care and particularly among the no-EU students. The story may not be that rosy.

    BTW, you mention Willetts as minister of state, but he has cabinet attending role unlike the usual minister of states, as he was previously shadow education secretary.

    Those who comment against tuition fee should clearly state where the funding for universities are coming from given that above 45% attend universities these days unlike the half that number during “free fee” days. As for UK learning lessons , it is rather Ireland and Scotland should realise the pickle they are in, and get real.

    As for schools converted to academies , I was a governor of one until recently, and the purpose of academies are not to ” attract bussing in students from other schools to use its facilities”, but to help to improve the education for those students who it admits. My son’s school which was failing became academy with partnership with the nearby pre-92 university and it is doing very welll indeed, wih academics from the universities taking interests in joint projects with the academy. Very easy for folks to sound negative, but then academics are the worst when it comes to change. They are too long mired in their comfort zones.

    “A better model might be for universities to enter into partnerships with some for-profit institutions that can provide services in an appropriately monitored environment”

    Could you Ferdinand, give an example, and say how viable it is? With due respect, your comment sound very unrealistic. As also your observation : “..if new private institutions are pushed into the market too aggressively there could be serious problems in the medium term if some of them run into quality issues”, you speak from Irish experience, not relevant here, and I suggest you visit some highly successful private colleges in London for example, which will compete with post-92s when they are given go ahead to run degree courses validated by an external agency like Edexcel.

  4. anna notaro Says:

    @’A better model might be for universities to enter into partnerships with some for-profit institutions that can provide services in an appropriately monitored environment.’ The crucial bit in this sentence is the ‘appropriately monitored’. Personally, I am rather skeptic that this type of partnerships can ever be of equals …

  5. iainmacl Says:

    “A better model might be for universities to enter into partnerships with some for-profit institutions that can provide services in an appropriately monitored environment”

    Why should taxpayer’s money go straight into the profits of private companies? That’s the bottom line with these so-called partnerships. In the UK, PFI for example has been an unmitigated disaster financially speaking with government owing billions in interest payments that far outstrip Ireland’s total debt by the way. It is surely far better to improve efficiency of public sector than to hive off to private greed.

    • copernicus Says:

      Do you live in England, where they have delivered new hospitals? If not, Best not to comment on issues in which you have no knowledge or experience.


    • The partnership model I am thinking about is not like PFI at all. There are good reasons for allowing properly monitored partnerships to develop where the private institution can recruit in areas where the university will not attempt to do so. It also makes financial sense for the university to pursue such partnerships.

  6. copernicus Says:

    Many of the posters here I guess have no knowledge about CISCO academies operating in universities computer science/computer engineering departments which is a PFI/ link with a profit-making company CISCO in the sense that CISCO trains and even equips the deparments with software and hardware for training the staff and students in CISCO courses for certification. CISCO monitors them ,and these certificates have world-wide reputation, and recognition. Even the external examiners and the universities that I know in England are happy to let the CISCO in. Not all private is bad ( folks buy cars, houses etc..and are comfortable with the term “private” there), and not all public is good as some scandals like the North Saffordshire hospital, a large NHS hospital in England is deemed dangerous for patients as many died there. An enquiry is set up.

  7. Al Says:

    For profit education!!
    Maybe that is a little vague
    Any Dept Head will want to have a little surplus at the end of the accounting year, no matter what the department or funding model is.
    Is that for profit or fiscal continence?

  8. copernicus Says:

    Ferdinand

    This is not a related post, but my inquisitiveness could not stop this from posting.

    Would you be continuing this blog albeit may be in another form when you take up the VC position at RGU?

    Would you have time to post regularly as you have been doingso far? RGU’s late VC Mike Pittilo was posting everyweek for a few months in a twitter fashion in RGU website about the department he visited or the guests he received. But that was all. In my opinion, you are doing a great job of bringing forth the issues in HE for discussion. When you assume your new position in the Spring 2011, the May Scottish election day will not be far away. The noises that I hear from the St Andrews and Edinburgh are that they too want to charge tuition fees so as not to be left behind the English universities in terms of resources. The Chancellor of St Andrews Ming Campbell may vote against the tuition fees (he was never right), but his university, my contacts tells me thinks otherwise.

  9. kevin denny Says:

    Hibernia the online teacher training college is for profit I believe and seems to be doing well as far as I know. Shouldn’t we get over this fetish about ownership (public good/private bad) and judge institutions by what they actually do?
    In Ireland, of all places, we have enough evidence of public-sector-behaving-badly. I’m pretty sure my doctor isn’t in the business for charity (likewise my newsagent, local bar, shoe factory etc etc) but that doesn’t mean he does a bad job. Appropriate regulation and consumer choice does.
    Come to think of it, I am not in my job for charity either and I do a good job.


    • I don;t disagree, Kevin – but the financial pressures of private ownership (as distinct from private not-for-profit status) requires a business model that cannot compete with a university in the full sense. So for example, no private for-profit university that I am aware of anywhere in the world is a serious research player, or wants to be.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 732 other followers

%d bloggers like this: