The private colleges in the UK, and I am talking about the ones which are small, mostly run by owner-operators, and privately funded, have taken a terrible beating in the last couple of years. The British Government's across the board clamp down on student migration, the burden of which fell disproportionately on private colleges, made their business model disappear overnight. Some enterprising ones survived the onslaught by adapting quickly to the new student finance regime established in 2012, where the government made money follow the student and opened it up for private sector, even For-Profit, institutions.
This strategy has had some stunning successes, as the quick climb of numbers of students opting for private institutions, as opposed to a Public University, show. The success was primarily because the private colleges, leaner institutions without a mandate for public duty or unionised staff, could afford to charge the students lower fees compared to the universities. They could also attract the students with lower grades in the school-leaving examinations as the public universities were subject to a quota for these students, and had to turn down applicants, whereas the private institutions were not subject to any quota numbers.
However, the success has brought out another round of controls, suspension of some very successful private colleges from the student funding entitlements. The student quota for public universities now are due to be abolished, though the private colleges will be subject to a quota, based on their current year's recruitment numbers, which will reverse the equation that led to the recent successes of some of the players.
This, coupled with the government's projection that the number of college-going students will start to fall from 2015 (a trend that is likely to continue till 2020), and the smaller private colleges look as doomed as ever. Besides, the changes in the regulatory environment has significantly increased the cost of doing business for the private colleges, and this cost will continue to rise in line with the very British indulgence with red tape more of which is sure to follow. The remaining private college owners in Britain are clinging to their businesses in the hope that the current student visa regime will be reversed given the intensely competitive international environment (for example, as the new Australian Minister for Higher Education vows to welcome more International students to Australia and the US regulators start showing openness to payments to educational agents). However, both the Government and the Opposition have worked themselves into a corner on this issue, and helped create the 'island under siege' mood on the main street: It would be hard to get out of this position despite the competitive dynamics. Besides, even if the UK policy changes in a few years, the International student market may have moved on: Apart from a freshly welcoming Australia and United States (and indeed Canada, which gained most from UK shutdown), various significant regional dynamics have emerged, such as accounting students travelling to Malaysia rather than UK for British Accounting Qualifications. This will effectively rule out any turn of fortunes for the private colleges with regard to international students.
So, then, can they survive as they have always done in the past? Indeed, the private colleges in Britain was enormously resilient, often inventing new business forms making the public system play for a catch up. The achievements of the sector have often been overshadowed by various scandals and abuses, but it is timely to remember that private schools led the way in Accounting and Business Education, Correspondence Courses and Distance Learning, and indeed, International Education, before significant public provisions were created. The message there is that the private provisions have always thrived on innovation and creating new programmes and areas of study, and always withered when up against the public sector. While there may be significant changes in the public sector itself which will make it more vulnerable to private sector challenge, the investors and entrepreneurs in the private sector colleges will be well advised to remember this lesson and avoid direct competition with public sector.
The UK private college sector has enjoyed a period of unparallelled prosperity for almost twenty years, as the international student market took off and the British universities started charging significantly higher fees to international students. This has come in the way of innovation and new thinking, as excess demand usually does. However, the period of next ten years is unlikely to be the same: The easy ride on Britain's student loan system is unlikely to save the sector as the events in the last few weeks have shown.
I shall argue that the education businesses now has a greater significance than they ever had. This is a time of disruptive innovation in higher education: While the rhetoric has reached a fever pitch in the States, innovation and new forms of Higher Education are emerging across the world. Britain will be well served by its own breed of 'edupunks and edupreneurs': The last thing one wants at the time of breaking of the Higher Education systems is a Higher Education landscape completely dominated by the Public Sector and a few large conglomerates, which will be essentially anti-disruption.
One would hope that this big picture, the opportunity of disruption, will spur some education entrepreneurs and make them look beyond the stock constituencies of international students and student loan recipients. This may indeed mean creating new formats, such as employment-based education that Pearson College is already trying out. This may mean emergence of better Online formats, global learning opportunities and new methods of gaining academic credits. In many ways, the cozy days of selling Britain's colonial heritage is somewhat over: The time now is for real innovation and a new kind of private college may be best placed to seize that opportunity.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.