Whats the word I am looking for ? Chutzpah ? Brass Neck ? Arrogance ? Yet again, the coalition government are launching into an extra-ordinarily radical reform agenda with no mandate whatsoever. I refer of course to the appearance of David Willetts this morning on the Today programme, trailing the HE White Paper that isn’t even out yet. You can listen to the interview here, and read summaries from the Guardian and the THE; and here is the opposition response from, John Denham. The pitch is (i) More power to the student with the money ! (ii) More competition please ! (iii) More concentration on teaching quality ! (iv) More information so students can decide !
Some concrete ideas seem to be (i) Remove the quota on places. (ii) Universities must publish information on employment outcomes of degrees (iii) Universities must publish data on contact hours. (iv) Universities must account for how they use fees. (v) Courses that employers don’t like should be scrapped.
Why is this happening ? Whats broke that needs fixing ? Well partly its the good old “profit motive fixes everything”, but mostly its about COSTS. Government wants large fraction of people to have HE. But can’t afford this from public purse. So get universities to charge the customer. But this is impossible for most families unless big loans are available, so government has to cough up in first instance. Mega cash flow problem unless universities bring in full fees a little bit slower please. Ooops. Everybody wants to charge 9000 NOW. Ok. Only option is force some universities to get cheaper. Drive them into competition and let some go to the wall unless they develop cut price versions.
I am not sure I am totally against more university competition. But please don’t believe any of the bollocks about improving student experience etc. Its exactly the opposite. The whole thing only adds up if some universities are dirt cheap, and offer an experience to match. OK, so this is a real option. Lets be open minded. But lets call a pig a pig.
If you are upset enough, you can sign a no confidence petition here.
Oh .. and .. anybody know what will happen in Scotland ?