The strange death of number controls in England : paradoxical adventures in higher education market making

Article English OPEN
McCaig, Colin ; Taylor, Carol A (2017)

The paper analyses the impact of a higher education funding mechanism, the 'High Grades' policy, introduced as part of a student number control regime in England that was introduced in 2012/13 and withdrawn after only two years. This marked the end of an experiment in market making based on quality and price within a fixed student number cap. The paper analyses the impact of policy in key areas of institutional behaviour which taken together illustrate why the specific higher education market mechanism failed. The focus will be on two key areas of institutional behaviour which taken together illustrate why the specific higher education market mechanism failed, and how longer term marketisation is affecting the different institution types in the sector in ways inimical to equity and social justice. The two areas are: 1) strategic responses by selective universities (pre-1992s ) to the 'high grades' policy reform and its impact on attempts to protect subject breadth and widening participation (WP); 2) the market pressure felt by post-1992 universities to differentiate themselves from their competitors due to the demands of institutional league tables. These in turn illustrate the ways that longer term marketisation is affecting the different institution types in the sector in ways inimical to autonomy, equity and social justice.
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