Follow the money?
Here’s a thing. YouGov-Cambridge recently carried out a survey of 4,000 people exploring British attitudes to higher education (though this may have been English rather than ‘British’). When respondents were invited to identify the word that most closely described higher education, this is the world cloud that came up.
What should concern us in this is not just the identification of cost as the most important factor, but the fact that ‘knowledge’ and ‘learning’ are amongst the almost invisible terms.
Of course England has its own specific issues in the aftermath of the funding reform there, and some might argue that this would play differently elsewhere. I might have some doubts that it would. Money has become the key point of discussion, and while funding is of course necessary in order that universities can offer excellent programmes and research, it is the means rather than the end.
It is vital that the public debate around higher education is not just seen as money talk. For that to work, of course, the major money concerns of the sector must be addressed. But the universities themselves need to ensure that what they are putting into the public domain is not just all about funding. It is time to expand the debate.