January 23, 2004
"Two models for running universities …"

Here are two interesting articles from economist.com about university finance, a short one, and a longer one.

Key paragraphs, from the short one (with that link again to the longer one):

There are, broadly, two models for running universities. They can be autonomous institutions, mainly dependent on private income, such as fees, donations and investments, or they can be state-financed and (as a result) state-run. America's flourishing universities exemplify the former, Europe's the latter (see article). Britain's government wants to move towards the American model. The subject of next week's rebellion is a bill that would allow English universities (Scotland and Wales are different) to charge up to £3,000 ($5,460) in tuition fees, instead of the current flat-rate £1,125. Students will borrow the money through a state-run loan scheme and pay it back once they are earning enough.

It is a very limited start, laced with sweeteners for students from poor backgrounds. The best universities worry that the maximum fee should be many times higher. But it reflects an important shift in thinking. First, that the new money universities need should come from graduates, rather than the general taxpayer. Second and most crucially, it abandons the egalitarian assumption that all universities are equally deserving.

The government is right to be trying to move towards the American model. The European model is a shambles. Pit they're going so slowly. That's the gist of it all.

I'm finally starting to be comfortable with what I'm supposed to think about all this. I still find it hard to stay awake but I do now know what my opinions are, and why I hold them.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:49 PM
Category: Higher education