Friday, April 06, 2012

University Competition

The point of allowing a (limited) market in the higher education sector, I thought, was that competition would drive up academic standards. As those familiar with the US would attest, however, the problem with this is that the consumers in question (students) don't necessarily respond to academic standards in their spending decisions: rather, their money goes to the universities offering the best 'student experience'. Thus, we see universities competing to offer the best accommodation, sports teams, or even nightlife, rather than well-stocked libraries or knowledgeable teachers (things that, even if would-be students were interested in, they would not be in a position to assess). This point is not original to me, but I notice that it seems that these predictions are being borne out as universities seek to build plush campus hotels, at the same time as making cuts to academic budgets and offering staff another below-inflation pay 'rise'...

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