The Times: SchoolGate: The universities crisis: is abolishing the cap on fees the answer? Should all university courses cost the same?

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Written by Sarah Ebner

Lord Patten's comments follow on from a new report, out just a few weeks ago, by James Stanfield, a fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and of Newcastle University's E.G. West Centre, which is privately funded.

Dr Stanfield also called for the cap on fees to be abolished, and claimed that they completely distort the system.

The cap, he said, "artificially increases" the demand for university places, and even makes students value their education less, because they're not paying the full price for it. As you can probably tell, it's a very market-driven analysis.

"What politicians don’t realise is that tuition fees ought to send important signals about the relative value of different university courses, and help to co-ordinate the interests of students, universities, and future employers," he wrote. "By dictating what fees may be charged, the government is severely retarding the natural development of higher education."

Dr Stanfield goes further than Lord Patten, calling for all direct public subsidies of higher education to be scrapped. He says that the government's current subsidy simply "taxes the poor to help the rich get richer" as well as "crowding" out philanthropic involvement. Instead he calls for funding to be channelled though a new and expanded student loan programme. The new loans, he said, should be targeted at those most in need financially. - the wealthier should only be able to have a set percentage of their fees as a loan.

Although Dr Stanfield's plans are more extreme than Lord Patten's, both have a similar argument at their core - that it's wrong for all degrees to cost the same, whatever their quality, whatever the subject, wherever they are taken, and however much they help students to get a job afterwards.

Published in The Times here.