UK For-Profit Higher Ed: The 'Home Market' Opportunity
The interesting point in this whole discussion about the 'Home Market', however, is the conspicuous absence of any education innovation. UK has a Higher Education problem like anywhere else; the issues regarding national competitiveness in skills and enterprise are alive and kicking. There is a huge requirement of reskilling the workforce. The economy, desperately dependent on Banking, may need to balance itself, a possibility many of us don't want to think about, and educational innovation is the only way one could do it. However, the 'Home Market' seems to refer to only the traditional undergraduate students, in the parlance of education investors, and not anything slightly complicated.
Seen that way, the 'Home Market' scramble looks very much like Yeltsin-era Russian privatization, than any wave of innovation or new ideas: With this, we are likely to get indifferent players with Higher fees, drawing on public subsidies [there are two kinds of subsidies - direct, through student loans, and indirect, as the tenured lecturers from public universities often moonlight in the private colleges] trying to chase a dwindling student population. This is setting up to be not just policy disaster, but bad business too: While there may be some short term gains to be achieved from public-to-private conversion of assets, for Private Equity, they should be able to sell these assets on based on a growth proposition. With the student numbers turning south by 2015, costs moving up with competition and overheads, and placement opportunities looking as limited as ever, the investors may have to wait a lot longer for their payday if they solely look at the traditional undergraduate market and try to ween it away from the public universities.