Alternative providers of higher education: what are the risks?
Thursday, 12 January 2017 | Admin
by G.R. Evans (University of Cambridge)
The part of the higher education sector in the UK in which providers are not publicly-funded (including for-profit, not-for-profit and charitable) has been expanding considerably under Government encouragement. This paper aims to clarify the practical and public policy issues now emerging, by tracing the history of the emergence of this policy in the wider context of trends in higher education policy in the UK, and with reference to the changes brought about by devolving higher education to the ‘devolved administrations’ of Scotland and Wales. It examines the claims made by alternative provider lobbyists that they will be able to provide something for students which would be different and better. It looks at the mounting evidence, including the findings of the Quality Assurance Agency, the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee, that a number of alternative providers were guilty of bad practice and even fraud in taking advantage of the availability of Student Loan Company funding for their students. The penultimate section describes the attempt by a small group of alternative providers to form an organisation for leaders of the sector and to dissociate themselves from these trends and emerging problems. The article concludes with the implications of the White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy, and the Higher Education and Research Bill, both published in May 2016 for the risks and implications of this significant proposed reconstruction of the system of UK higher education.