In America, for-profit providers enrol 13% of students, but account for over 40% of student loan defaultsby Jonathan Clifton / May 31, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: The end of argument in our universities?
Alternative providers who want to set up new universities will find it easier following recent legislation by the government. Universities Minister Jo Johnson wants to free-up the market , making it easier for alternates to award their own degrees and recruit students funded through the loan system. He hopes these new providers (which could include a mixture of profit-making and not-for-profit organisations) will challenge existing universities to raise their game, and provide more innovate types of education.
There is some merit in this but past experience suggests the government must tred carefully. Instead of ushering in dynamic and high quality “challenger institutions,” it could unwittingly enable private providers in setting up poor quality courses in an attempt to make a quick buck.
The government is right to challenge the existing Higher Education sector—which has a tendency to create a system that works for its own interests. Universities tend to cohere around a uniform model of full-time, three year £9,000 bachelor’s degrees, with a focus on research. Many do not meet the demand from less advantaged communities, preferring protect their elite status.
While this model works well for young people with A-levels on their way to a professional job, it leaves many others out in the cold. Our current institutions can overlook those over the age of 25, or wanting to study part-time, or wanting to study higher level vocational courses. Or who may live in area without a university, or who want to improve skills while remaining in work. There are, of course, notable exceptions to this pattern—but it is striking that our main model of higher education has not changed substantially for over a century.
At the same time the government must be careful how it changes this model. In 2012 it relaxed the rules surrounding private providers in higher education—making it easier to enrol students who receive government-backed student loans. But lax regulation meant this ended in tears—with fraudulent claims for public money, high dropout rates and unsustainable growth, partly fuelled by enrolling students from overseas.
This incident pales in comparison to the problems seen with for-profit higher education institutions in the USA, where there are now over 1,000. Many have faced accusations of “preying” on vulnerable students.…