The politics of government intervention in the HE market

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2023 Number 84 & 85

The politics of government intervention in the HE market
Andrew McGettigan talks to Kirsten Forkert, pages 168-185
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.84-85.11.2023


The last twenty to thirty years have seen a big push to create a market in higher education, but there have been frequent interventions by governments both to sustain the ‘market’ and to alter its operation for policy reasons. The sector has massively expanded since the 1990s because of a cross-party consensus that the country needed more skills - though this view is now less popular; however, there still seems to be consensus that higher education should be substantially funded by (capped) domestic student fees (the price of a degree for international students is largely unregulated). A big subprime market has developed in Higher Education; and there has also been an increase in third-party private providers: much recent regulation is necessitated by adapting the system to these providers. The market is frequently set aside when it comes up against the establishment privilege of Oxbridge and the Russell Group. And tweaks to the market made since 2010 have largely been designed to steer more resources to already privileged institutions. For example the recent announcements about capping foundation year fees, and limiting dependant visas for international students, will have a greater adverse effect on non-elite institutions because of the kind of recruitment they’re involved in, and the kind of offer they make to students. The same logic applies to removing the cap on recruitment to elite universities, and the reduction of funding for Foundation Years. The 2023 announcement that the government wished the regulator, OfS, to make more use of its powers to restrict funding for ‘low-value’ courses was accompanied by culture wars rhetoric, but should be understood as an attempt to limit university autonomy, even while it also addresses concerns around the ‘new providers’ that have been allowed to access government-backed loans since 2010. 

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To cite this article
Andrew McGettigan (2023) The politics of government intervention in the HE market, Soundings, 2023(84 & 85 ), 168-185.

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