Buying into the idea of a university

For those of us not working in English higher education, the stream of news coming from there consistently manages to amaze. The latest story, which may or may not have been fully grounded in reality, was that the British government was contemplating the idea of having unfunded university places that could, therefore, be filled by those with the means to buy their way in at full cost fees (with or without the normally expected academic qualifications).

In the latest twist to this story, Prime Minister David Cameron has said that this is not the plan; but there is a suspicion that ideas were floated along these lines but then dropped when it looked to be generating too much opposition.

Whether the story in its original form was true or not, there is now a dangerous level of instability and unpredictability in English higher education, which is unsettling the sector and affecting its reputation at home and overseas. Having higher education chaos in England is not in the interests of the rest of us, not least because the disease is catching. It is, perhaps, time for a less wacky approach to university matters south of the border.

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6 Comments on “Buying into the idea of a university”

  1. Martin Says:

    Today has been a strange one. Wacky is certainly one word for it! 🙂

  2. Al Says:

    Those Tories….
    What did Morgan Kelly say about slightly dim ex rugby players…..
    But today looked like an episode of “The thick of it”.

  3. anna notaro Says:

    For the record, there is no doubt that the story was grounded in reality, in the link to the UK education minister inteview to the BBC Today programme this morning (which I included in my comment to previous post) he did not deny it.

    • I think you are right, Anna – I was leaving a tenth of an inch of space for the possibility that David Cameron was right when he told the BBC that this was never contemplated. However, it is most assuredly hard to reconcile that with David Willett’s earlier response.

  4. Vincent Says:

    Is there any real difference with what’s going on at the moment. Except for the cash that is. And if a bit rich the Uni’s getting all sniffy about the sourcing of the fuel needed to keep the place going.
    Sirloin Blue and why not I say.

  5. Alan Fekete Says:

    For several years, Australia had a system of that sort.

    There were “Commonwealth-supported” places, whose number was negotiated by each university with the government, discipline-by-discipline; for these the government provided the money, and then the students took on a debt to the government (either paid off immediately with a 20% discount, or else accumulated and later paid through the tax system when/if the graduate’s income reached average levels). Any university could also offer “Fee” places, where the student paid the tuition themselves (the government paid nothing).

    Starting a year or so ago, the Labor Party government abolished the right of universities to offer Fee places to domestic students (though fee-based tuition, at a rate set by each university as it wishes and without government funding, remains the structure for those from other countries, as it had been even before local students were offered this choice)

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