Sustaining higher education

Lord NortonI chair the Higher Education Commission, which draws together figures from politics, business, and academe.  I co-chaired our most recent inquiry into the financial sustainability of higher education.  The report – you can read it here – was released yesterday and attracted notable attention in the press.  It was the lead story in the Independent.  I  did lunchtime interviews for The World at One and Radio5 Live, as well as a recorded interview.

The report argues that the present situation is not sustainable, at least not in terms of the criteria we advance.  However, there is no magic bullet.  We identified and assessed six options, ranging from a tweaking of the existing system through to lifting the fee cap and differential fees.   Each has its merits, but each also has its drawbacks.  Our task was not so much as to provide the answer, but to get an informed debate.  The danger otherwise is that it will be seen as a problem, but too difficult to tackle.  Our starting point was that higher education in the UK is among the best in the world and that we need to ensure that it remains so.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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8 Responses to Sustaining higher education

  1. tizres says:

    Short title: Bugger Dearing.

  2. maude elwes says:

    This topic sends my blood pressure through the roof. It disgusts me.

    A relative of mine is still paying for his tuition fees at Bristol after ten years. His friend a medical student is stuck into £60,000 of debt for his so called training, etc..This is with an added bonus of his father being a GP, which meant he is able to foot some of it.

    Why, instead of being glued to the USA and the horrors of that creepy, backward thinking world, are we not following Germany (yes in that dreadful place called Europe) and making education a common right, instead of an unaffordable privilege for the many?

    Of course those who run our country now, especially the duplicitous lot packed in the Lords, had their education free. Odd how they want to burden the youth of today in a way they never would have projected in their studies.

  3. Croft says:

    “institutional failure would have a direct impact on the sustainability of the rest of the sector: if any institution were to fail there would be significant reputational damage to the whole sector”

    This is quoted in the press although i can’t quickly find it in the report. I hope it isn’t as its the most depressing nonsense. You don’t maintain the reputation of any sector by keeping a failing institution going or papering over the cracks and hoping no one notices. Sounds like the worst sort of special pleading…

    • Lord Norton says:

      Croft: The Commission’s interest is not so much in maintaining institutions, but in having mechanisms in place to support students at any institution that fails. The point was developed in our previous report on regulating higher education.

      • Croft says:

        What you say is perfectly reasonable. The students are entitled to protection from the failure of institutions – but institutions must be able to fail and should not be artificially propped up. Mediocre institutions limping on damage the reputation of the system far more than a Uni going out of business.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Croft: Indeed. In our previous report, we recommended a levy, similar to that of ABTA for travel, so that there was a fund to provide for support for students in any institution that failed. Our concern was to ensure students were supported and that it was known that they would be supported. That need is greater given that institutions will not necessarily be propped up in future by HEFCE.

      • Croft says:

        The ABTA proposal sounds eminently sensible and practical.

  4. Pingback: Sustaining Higher Education | Politics, Philosophy and International Studies at Hull

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