If one has to put markers to trace the rapid change in the British Higher Education space, some watershed events will stand out:
First, on 26th July 2010, it was announced that BPP University College of Professional Studies, a For Profit institution which was taken over by the US-based Apollo Group only a year earlier (August 2009), will be granted degree granting power, a first for private sector in nearly 30 years. This led to fierce criticism from the Public Sector Universities and Teachers' Unions alike, who criticised that this amounts to a foreign, albeit American, invasion of British Higher Education, which will lower standards and dumb down student experience. BPP came with a history of Professional Education, primarily in Law and Accounting, and there was resentment about blurring of boundaries between these disciplines and the walled garden of Higher Education, a preserve of the pure.
Then, in June 2011, A C Grayling, a prominent philosopher and atheist, announced the formation of New College of Humanities (NCH), an elite For-Profit college with a celebrity faculty line-up including Richard Dawkins and Niall Ferguson, modelled after elite US liberal arts colleges like Amherst. The degrees they offered were the popular University of London external degrees. The public university community was up in arms again, this time purportedly on the proposed fee tag of £18,000 a year. The objection was seemingly directed at the elitism of the school as most students will not be able to afford the fees (though British universities regularly charge overseas students from poorer countries a fee of £10,000 upwards a year). There was a sense of betrayal in one of their own going over to the dark side of For-Profit Education, and since then, Grayling's lectures and events have regularly been disrupted by angry protesters.
Finally, today, when the entry of Pearson into Higher Education was announced and somewhat dominated the BBC News. Pearson, publishing conglomerate which also owns the examinations body Edexcel, is on the other end of the spectrum from NCH, charging £6000 a year for undergraduate degree (which comes from Royal Holloway, an University of London college). Indeed, in between the BPP announcement and Pearson's entry, a number of other colleges, including the American-owned Regents College, were granted the degree granting status. Pearson's scheme was the most modest among all these events, as they only announced plans to admit 30 students each in two locations, London and Manchester, and instead of setting up a college, their courses were to be delivered within their offices. The idea is to build a strong linkage with work experience, allowing the graduates to work within Pearson's own businesses and elsewhere using their industry relationship. Surprisingly, though, this generated the maximum unease among the vested interests, with Million+ (an universities group) Chief Executive Pam Tatlow going public on BBC with her, rather unfounded, concerns about lack of regulation on private sector (not material, as Pearson is offering University of London degrees, and therefore, regulated) and about channelling the public subsidies to private organisations (again, irrelevant, as Pearson students will not receive student loans at this time).
It was long anticipated that Pearson will enter the market, with the Universities minister being criticised about the amount of time he spent consulting private sector companies, including Pearson, on the eve of Higher Education funding reforms in 2011. One can argue that Pearson's entry was a rather damp squib compared to the expectations of a real disruptive entry, as it did not get the degree awarding power (and is unlikely to get it for five more years), and more surprisingly, they positioned themselves at the lower end of the price spectrum, trying to wean away students from universities by price incentive. The fact that they have put an innovative offering together, bolstered by a strong learning-at-work message, may be somewhat undermined by the lack of confidence in going for a higher price point. The risk is, indeed, of being perceived as a mickey-mouse degree provider, a popular British tag which they need to avoid at any cost. However, though they are providing a degree with greater prestige than the NCH (a full University of London degree rather than an external one), NCH may have trumped them in prestige at the outset simply due to their outrageous pricing.
So, the furore surrounding Pearson's entry to the market is a rather surprising. At this time, their market positions and offering threatens no one; the public universities have long been working with private providers and Further Education colleges based in the UK, and this is another such event. However, it surely seems that the British public universities, particularly the mass market ones which does not excel either in research or teaching, and are currently surviving by exploiting their advantageous positions derived through their charter, are really feeling the heat, and their reaction is not against Pearson, but the change of the system itself. Their position is that they don't like companies making profit out of education, though rent seeking is alright; and, also, while public money should not be spent helping students get a qualification from one of these private institutions which seek to connect education with work more closely, it should be given out to them to maintain the Oxbridge pretentions of the mediocre academics. Pearson really hits a raw nerve here; this is so far the biggest organisation, with a $1 billion war chest, to enter Higher Education in Britain. Despite its modest start (and, it must be mentioned, rather poor record in businesses other than the core ones), they are really shaking things up.
Indeed, this is just the start, and more will happen in the coming months, with new players, exciting offerings and greater innovation (some of which will fail). The British government is effectively bailing itself out from Higher Education, by moving to a system where money follows the students, and giving out strong signals to the universities not to depend on public purse anymore. I remember attending a colloquium in British Academy, where Michael Crow, the President of Arizona State University, reminded one serial moaner (who complained about the funding regime) that American State Universities only receive less than 20% of their funding from the government and treat government as one of their many customers. Indeed, some of the British Universities, created in the heydays of welfare state and governed by career bureaucrats, living without government funds and treating everyone else, particularly the students, as customers, is unthinkable. Pearson's entry may signal that those times indeed may have come.
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
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
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
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 was gui
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, as
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
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
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.