High time for a higher education revolution
Unsurprisingly, I suppose, no other chapter in the book aroused so much ire among readers as this one on education. But then no other sector of the economy is as conservative as education. Educational methods are essentially unaltered since the time of Aristotle in the 4th century BC.
All this was before the coronavirus. After it, the pressures on higher education are immense. A collapse in the number of overseas students, who are particularly lucrative for our universities, has brought a major financial crisis. They are now engaged in a scramble to secure more British students through the clearing process, which is in progress for the coming academic year. But British students’ fees are much lower and quite a few universities are in danger of going under.
So what should the stance of public policy be? Over recent decades, the university sector has undergone both a massive expansion and a substantial structural change - both for the worse. The Blair government pursued the objective that at least a half of all young people should go to university and obtain degrees.
Moreover, the distinction between universities and polytechnics, many of which had previously concentrated on the teaching of useful skills and trades, was abolished. After the change, many former polys jumped on the bandwagon and offered supposedly academic degree courses, often in spurious subjects. This has been a colossal waste of effort and money. It is time to call a halt.
A large part of the solution involves greater use of the market mechanism. In Australia, from ...
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