Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Paying for university places

The Guardian has an article today at http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/09/universities-extra-places-richest-students?CMP=twt_gu saying that the government intends to float the idea that universities could be allowed to take fee-paying UK students.

For lots of practical reasons, I like the idea. We want the universities to offer better resourced courses to more students. We do not want to charge students more. The government does not want to increase subsidy. And we are in the process of hoofing out thousands of private school kids from the top universities -perhaps 5,000 per annum if I read the draft access agreements right - and thereby creating a cohort of well qualified and well heeled students who could fill the places if we created them.

If we do not create the places, we will see all their money - perhaps £150 million per annum - going abroad, or to new private UK universities to recreate the private/state divide in higher education. If we do allow private places, we might use the extra income to create a couple of liberal arts institutions, offering broad courses with lots of contact time with top scholars, or we could elevate one of our good universities to be a fifth great one. Either way we would be benefitting lots of students beyond those paying fees, and the UK in general.

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