The problems with private sector universities for progressives…

With the first private university for more than 30 years only today being signed off, a private sector revolution within the higher education sphere may soon commence. Whilst the government sees the move as a way to get around the overcrowding at university, this is a cheap solution that ignores one of the main causes for the recent boom in university applications.

Many people are applying for university and are staying on beyond degree level to post-graduate level because the job market is simply dire. Therefore, a real way for the government to help deal with reducing the number of failed university applications is by investing in the job market. Instead, many have rightly condemned the budget and government economic measures as instead of improving growth, it risks a double dip recession – whilst cutting off vital aid to the economy to improve the job market.

The savage cuts will result in massive unemployment, and for the employment rates to grow in accordance to the optimistic figures of the government, there will need to be a massive increase in private sector employment. This is again very unlikely – as private sector employment is reliant on public sector employment in many ways.

All this endorsement of a private university will do is drive up segregation and competition within an area that has enough already, especially in the formative years of a child’s/teenager’s education. It is a testament to the government’s ideological trip of increasing privatisation within an already heavily privatised sector – education.

You only have to consider the rushed through Academies Bill which is likely to be passed today, it is just another way to further segregation and private sector control within a vital, should be, public service.

If you start letting institutions charge what they want for tuition fees and curtail their services to what Carl Lygo, the BPP (soon to be private university) chief executive, explains as a demand led method:

“The education landscape is changing, and over the next decade we will see a different picture emerging, where both students and employers will drive demand for their preferred method of study and training.”

Well, this is a dangerous path to go down. It will see the poorest students priced out of the ‘dominant’ demand (those with the most money), it will also see the public universities calling for greater control over their tuition fee levels (which they will no doubt get as a result of Lord Browne’s report) and all this will do is led to universities competing with prices being driven up and the poorest driven out.

This is not the right way to balance representation within universities and further education. Now we wait with anticipation for the Lord Browne review, which is set to further cause anguish for the education progressives.


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