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May 14, 2003
Kealey on university funding

While I've been away in France, the Conservative Party has been busy opposing university tuition fees. Natalie Solent is scornful, as is Terence Kealey in today's paper Times, at somewhat greater length.

At the heart of Kealey's argument is that if universities can charge their students then they can achieve financial self-sufficiency, and that with that will come intellectual independence from the government that would otherwise control the purse strings.

Kealey is an important man, whom all those who favour free market solutions to you know everything, should be aware of and on the side of and making much of. This is because he has put more eloquently than anyone else I know of the case against government funding for science. My brother recently got hold of The Economic Laws of Scientific Research for me, and I intend to write more on this subject.

Oddly enough though, although Kealey is surely right about the importance of universities being allowed to charge for their services, his own arguments about science funding somewhat undermine the significance although not the truth of what he says about university funding.

What Kealey says about science is that universities are not as crucial to the wider economy and society as a lot of the people in them now believe. The conventional model of scientific funding, the one that justifies government spending on science, goes: government funding pays for science, science results in technology, and technology makes lots of money. The Kealey model goes: technology makes more technology which makes money, and science, although it does lead to technology, is also caused by technology. So those temples of intellectual purity, the universities, are not the fountainheads of science, and of technology, and of money for everybody, but more like a sideshow.

But of course you could also argue, as I now will and as Kealey also touches on in his Times piece, that if it is true that universities aren't those great Public Goods that make us all rich, but merely finishing schools for the bright and posh which benefit them but not the rest, that reinforces the case for making students pay their own costs.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:02 PM
Category: Free market reformsHigher education

Are there not 2 points to make about the IDS speech as well? namely that, 1.) it is at least first-step-in-the-right-directionism (and there haven't been too many of those by the Tory party recently) & 2.) the point of the Tory party is to win elections, so that hopefully it can do right-wingish things - and this nakedly selfish agenda probably is a step back towards winning c. 43% of the popular vote?

Sorry, that's all rather tangled thinking: this - http://www.electricreview.com/cgi/viewnews.cgi?id=1052858952 - I suppose is more what I'm getting at, and why right of centre/pro-market types ought to be encouraged just a bit by that speech.

Comment by: Paul Henderson on May 15, 2003 05:49 PM
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