“There are good arguments for introducing some market pressures to university funding. But the Government has been too radical too quickly. Trebling fees in one go was too big a leap – motivated by the desire to inflict unrealistic levels of cuts on higher education. Those cuts pressed universities to charge the £9,000-a-year maximum fee the Government had allowed. Ministers were mysteriously taken aback by this and too late realised that this would place an additional £1bn immediate charge on taxpayers. So in the summer they announced incentives which said that universities charging under £7,500 a year would be allowed to expand. This week’s changes are the universities’ response to that moving of the goal posts.
Running a world-class university sector cannot be left entirely to the market because it will produce distortions – such as not enough students taking science, engineering, technology and maths courses, while at the same time arts and social science subjects risk becoming the preserve of the privately educated and affluent, as languages already have”.
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