Universtities need to be set free


Lord Mandelson’s policies of economic interventionism that have accompanied his latest return from exile have had much support from many on the left of the political spectrum. However, the chickens are now coming home to roost, as the recent case of universities makes only too clear.

The oft-stated analogy of a government trying to control the price of bread is as pertinent in the case of universities as all other examples where those in power try to control the prices, supply and demand of any good. The real and disastrous consequences of this fatal conceit have been repeatedly proven in the annals of history. At present the government is unable to keep up with the demand for subsidised university places, while being fairly accused of both engendering elitism and funding ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. At the same time the universities are complaining that government cuts are driving them to the wall. Higher education is in a mess that only the private sector can solve.

Rather than admit defeat, Madelson is instead dolling out more advice to the inheritors of Labour’s debt. Apparently, those that cannot find a place at university should “take up an apprenticeship or college place”, because “the traditional three-year after school honours degree should no longer be a focus for future growth”. What happened to higher education as social engineering? Now its higher education as economic engineering.

Policy Exchange's latest report points the way, but in calling for top-up fees limited at £5,000 does not go far enough to set universities free. It also fails to fully address the iniquitous fact that the state subsidies offred to universities are in effect a transfer of money from the poor to the rich.

It is time to get government out of higher education. This is exactly what a soon-to-be-published ASI report by Dr James Stanfield of the EG West Centre will set out. If you have an interest in the findings of this report, do get in contact with me at: philip@old.adamsmith.org, and to find out about the launch event of this publication click here.