Trends in education now point firmly towards a private future for British universities, says Professor James Tooley of the University of Newcastle who edits a collection of articles on the universities in a new book from the Institute of Economic Affairs, published to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the founding of the University of Buckingham in October 1976*. The intellectual basis for the establishment of Britain's only university which is independent of the state was laid by an paper in 1969 - Professor Harry Ferns' 'Towards an Independent University'.
Tooley points out that, though all British universities are private institutions and at present only 41 per cent of their income comes from direct government grants, they have allowed themselves to fall increasingly under government control. But he sees several reasons to expect universities to break free from the state:
some universities are already rebelling against government regulation: in particular the London School of Economics has resolved to break away from the government's quality assurance scheme;
student fees are now being charged in Britain (low though they are);
innovative student loan models are being developed in other countries;
private universities are flourishing worldwide;
there is a growing number of for-profit universities; and
'borderless education' allows students access to courses anywhere in the world, bringing about an increasingly competitive global education market
Professor Tooley argues that the articles in this celebratory volume, written from a range of perspectives, demonstrate the new vigour of the debate in Britain about the future of universities and augur well for the future of higher eduication.
The distinguished contributors to the collection of articles include Sir Alan Peacock, Sir Graham Hills, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, Professor Kenneth Minogue, Tony Dickson, Jacob van Lutsenburg Maas, David Halpern, Duke Maskell, Professor Niall Ferguson, Professor John Clarke, Professor Norman Barry and Dr Terence Kealey. Professor Ferns' original paper is also included.