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ERIC Number: EJ943992
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0190-2946
A Price above Rubrics
Pears, Iain
Academe, v97 n5 p24-29 Sep-Oct 2011
Britain's universities are going through another period of reform, although in reality it might be better to describe current conditions as the latest stage of a permanent revolution that began some forty years ago. This time, however, there is a very real possibility that the new cost-cutting coalition government will inflict lasting and serious damage on one of the few international success stories in a country that no longer has much to boast about. The essence of the reforms is that the state will no longer pay for anything it deems inessential, and the old system of state grants--with tuition fees paid out of tax revenue--will finally be abolished. Students themselves will have to pay: the government will lend the money in the form of thirty-year loans, and the students will pay the university and then pay the money back to the government when they get jobs. Only courses that contribute to economic growth in an easily countable way will henceforth be subsidized by tax revenue. Equally, researchers in all areas will increasingly have to demonstrate "impact"--economic or social usefulness--in advance of getting any funding. The idea behind tuition fees is to introduce a market into higher education: the cost of courses should reflect demand, demand should be determined by the usefulness of a degree in securing future income, and courses should expand, contract, or disappear entirely as a result. Unfortunately, political considerations intervened within days of the proposals being made and destroyed whatever merit they may originally have possessed. Because of the peculiarities of Britain's experiment with coalition government--in which a center-right Conservative party is ruling in alliance with a much smaller center-left Liberal Democrat party--the proposals were modified to try to please both a conservative penchant for market forces and liberal requirements for social equity. The result is a program of total incoherence in which education is being sacrificed in the cause of political triangulation. Rather than set universities free, therefore, the new regime is one in which government will determine demand, supply, and what is taught and to whom. It will amount to the most centrally controlled education system in the Western world--effectively nationalization. And while the government is canceling its commitment to fund teaching, it has decided to maintain many of its direct grants to support research. Again, this decision provides a rationale for increased interference: the government will make sure that the money is spent efficiently and that research meets national "strategic goals."
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (Great Britain)