Independence or Stagnation?
The Imperatives of University
Reform in the United Kingdom
By Dennis O'keeffe & David Marsland
75 pages, Illustrated, 5 ½" x 8 ½"
$19.50 Paper Original
British higher education is in such a parlous state that the academic life of the country could be said to have collapsed. The two authors of this study point to two interlocking factors: massive over-regulation of the system by the state, and a dangerous dependence by the universities on public money. There has been what Simon Jenkins describes as a thirty years war between the universities and the state, and the state has won.
The socialist model of higher education funding has radically altered the conditions of supply and demand. Some people at university may have no very strong urge to be there. There may be studying for degrees which will by of little use to themselves or anyone else. If they, or their parents, had to pay, they might make different choices.
However, most people are so convinced that higher education should be 'free' that even small attempts to increase the costs to participants evoke fury. O'keeffe and Marsland suggest that wanting services but not wanting to pay for them is not to want them seriously. Government policy is making the situation worse, demanding both excellence and equality of access. These are mutually incompatible goals if universities are required to lower their entrance requirements to meet postcode quotas.
Furthermore, government policies for an ever-expanding higher education sector are based on the idea that more graduates mean greater wealth. There is no evidence for this. The authors do not, in any case, believe that the purpose of education is to create economic growth: it should be to pursue the advancement of knowledge and the creation of virtue. They suggest a range of measures to restore to the system the integrity required to pursue these traditional goals.
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