Letter: beware market failure

After the HE Bill 2nd Reading, beware market failure

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Despite the threats Higher Education faces from Brexit, and opposition from across the sector, the Government appears to be committed to pushing ahead with its disastrous Higher Education and Research Bill.

This can only be explained by the Government’s desire to expand the role of ‘alternative providers’ – i.e. private education companies – into the sector, which is clearly the Bill’s main purpose. To this end, quality assurance bodies and regulations will be abolished and the hurdle for attaining university status drastically lowered, allowing private firms – whether existing ones or new ones backed by venture capital – to receive government-backed fees and loans. Meanwhile, provisions are made for the ‘market exit’ of universities, either because they will be undercut as private firms cherry-pick cheap-to-provide courses and provide second-rate student experiences, or because private ventures will themselves collapse.

This is a recipe for a disastrous market failure, as in the United States and Australia. In the US, in May 2015, following a US$1.1bn court fine for fraud, Corinthian Colleges filed for bankruptcy, closing 91 colleges and leaving 110,000 students deeply indebted without courses or degrees. That June, the federal government announced it would forgive the loans of Corinthian’s defrauded students, at a cost of up to US$3.5bn. In Australia, meanwhile, further education has been exposed to private-sector cherry-picking by institutions that offered inducements for students to sign up for government loans for courses they never intended to pursue. Competition has seen the bad drive out the good, with disastrous consequences for students and public finances.

Britain has already experienced similar scandals caused by the weakening of regulation. Examples include the 2002 Individual Learning Accounts fiasco, and the crisis in BIS finances caused by the first, rapid, poorly regulated, expansion of private providers in HE.

The Government’s Bill is now in front of the Public Bill Committee. We urge colleagues to submit evidence to it before 18 September. We also invite all colleagues to the Third Convention on Higher Education in London on 15 October to organise the next phase in our defence of our world-class university system. See https://heconvention2.wordpress.com for more information.

Yours sincerely,

Sean Wallis (University College London, UCU NEC)
Lee Jones (Queen Mary, University of London, Campaign for the Public University, CPU)
Professor Dorothy Bishop (University of Oxford, Council for the Defence of British Universities, CDBU)
Professor John Holmwood (University of Nottingham, CPU)
Rachel Cohen (City University of London, UCU NEC)
Tom Hickey (University of Brighton, UCU and CDBU)
Professor Anne Sheppard (Royal Holloway, University of London, CDBU)
Douglas Chalmers (Glasgow Caledonian University, President, UCU Scotland)
Carlo Morelli (University of Dundee, UCU NEC)
Marion Hersh (University of Glasgow, UCU NEC)
Xanthe Whittaker (University of Leicester, UCU NEC)
Patricia McManus (University of Brighton, UCU NEC)
David Hardman (London Metropolitan University, London Region UCU)
Mark Campbell (London Metropolitan University, London Region UCU)
Professor Martin McQuillan (Kingston University, London, CDBU)
Professor Bill Bowring (Birkbeck College, University of London)
Cathy Bergin (University of Brighton UCU)
Jamie Melrose (University of Bristol, Bristol UCU)
Ian Hunt (Goldsmiths)
Professor Thomas Docherty (University of Warwick)
Professor Des Freedman (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Professor Andrea Brady (Queen Mary, University of London)
Jennifer Patterson (University of Greenwich)
Lucy Mayblin (University of Sheffield)
Mark Holmström (University of East Anglia, retired)
G S Ramkissoon (Kingston University, London)
Elena Marchevska (London South Bank University)
Professor Luke Martell (University of Sussex)
Simon Dyson (De Montfort University)
Professor Colin Tyler (Hull University)
Nicholas Collins (University of Warwick)
David Nowell Smith (University of East Anglia)
Professor Andreas Bieler (University of Nottingham)
Ioana Cerasella Chis (University of Birmingham, student)
Professor Paul Blackledge (Leeds Beckett University)
Liz Morrish (Nottingham Trent University)
Dermot Lynott (Lancaster University)
Professor David Adger (Queen Mary University of London)
Timo Jätten (University of Essex)
Stephen J. Cowley (University of Cambridge)
Brian Holton (Edinburgh, Durham, Newcastle (retd.))
Alison Jasper (University of Stirling)
Wendy Russell (University of Gloucestershire)
Justin Cruickshank (University of Birmingham)
Simon Sheikh (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Stacy Gillis (Newcastle University)
Zoë Tew-Thompson (Leeds Beckett University)
Professor Nick Ellison (University of York)
John Willott (Leeds Beckett University)
Kevin Deighton (Leeds Beckett University, UCU)
Jennifer Cooke (Loughborough University)
Adam Hansen (Northumbria University)
Stephen Bates (University of Birmingham)
Professor Andreas Vogt (University of Liverpool)
Hugh Goodacre (University of Westminster and University College London)
Helen Rodgers (Leeds Beckett University)
Professor Eric Fraga (University College London)
Peter Fifield (Birkbeck College)
Michael Bailey (Essex University)
Suhail Malik (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Professor Kay Peggs (University of Winchester, UCU, CDBU, CPU)
Simon Cross (Nottingham Trent University)
Rachel Garfield (University of Reading)
Sam Marsh (University of Sheffield)
Professor Tim May (University of Durham)
Lara Montesinos Coleman (University of Sussex)
Professor Malcolm Povey (University of Leeds)
Karen Evans (University of Liverpool)
Lucy Parker (Kingston University, London)
Simon Choat (Kingston University, London)
Sophie Gamwell (De Montfort University, Leicester)
Aidan Byrne (University of Wolverhampton)
Professor Martin Paul Eve (Birkbeck College)
Ian Revie (University of Edinburgh (retd.))
Professor William Outhwaite (Newcastle University (retd.))
Professor Maggie Humm (University of East London)
Professor David I. Clarke (Newcastle University)
Professor Ray Kiely (Queen Mary, University of London)
Kevin McSorley (University of Portsmouth)
James Eastwood (SOAS, University of London
Saira Weiner (Liverpool John Moores University)
David Wearing (SOAS, University of London)
Julia Welland (University of Warwick)
Kyran Joughin (University of the Arts London)
Elizabeth Veal (Newcastle University)
Keith Wilson (University of Glasgow)
Ian R Lamond (Leeds Beckett University)
Meera Sabaratnam (SOAS, University of London)
Marko Attila Hoare (Kingston University)
Liam Campling (Queen Mary University of London)
Professor Gurminder K Bhambra (University of Warwick, CPU)
Professor Andreas Schonle (Queen Mary, University of London)
Sarah Leahy (Newcastle University)
James Mallinson (SOAS, University of London)
Professor Ian Parker (University of Leicester)
Professor Jon Nixon (The Hong Kong University of Education)
Helen Stringer (Newcastle University)
Katja Laug (University of Warwick)
Alex Latham (University of Sussex)
Marina Vishmidt (University of Brighton)
Professor Bob Brecher (University of Brighton)
Professor Lucie Clapp (University College London)
Jo Hassall (Leeds Beckett University)
Sarah Hayden (University of Southampton)
Kaveh Boveiri (Université de Montréal)
James Cussens (University of York)
Owen Miller (SOAS, University of London)
Professor Phil Taylor (University of Strathclyde)
Dermot O’Reilly (Lancaster University)
Geoff Abbott (Newcastle University)
William McEvoy (University of Sussex)
Professor Adam Gearey (Birkbeck College)
Professor Christopher Fox (Brunel University)
Alpesh Maisuria (University of East London)
Lori Allen (SOAS, University of London)
Alen Toplisek (Queen Mary, University of London)
Professor Richard Hall (De Montfort University, Leicester)
Professor Patricia Findlay (University of Strathclyde)
Professor John Holford (University of Nottingham)
Astrid Kohler (Queen Mary University of London)
Professor Aaron Cassidy (University of Huddersfield)
Julie Hearn (Lancaster University, UCU NEC)
Professor John Allen (University College London (retd.))
John Croft (Brunel University)
David Sergeant (Plymouth University)
Peter Eckersley (Newcastle University)
JH Reynolds (Kingston University, London)
Professor Paul Webb (University of Sussex)
Professor Momin Rahman (Trent University, Canada)
David McCallam (University of Sheffield)
Marian Mayer (Bournemouth University)
Vincent Quinn (University of Sussex)
John Snijders (Durham University)
Susan Barnet (Central St. Martins, University of the Arts, London)
Rebecca Searle (University of Brighton)
Professor David Colquhoun FRS (University College London)
Fruela Fernandez (Newcastle University)
Professor Andrew Louth (Durham University (retd.))
Leon Sealey-Huggins (University of Warwick)
Professor John Bryan (University of Huddersfield)
Professor Ray Bush (University of Leeds)
James Benedict Brown (De Montfort University)
Sarah Amsler (University of Lincoln)
Professor Barry Smart (University of Portsmouth)
Lisa Tilley (University of Warwick)
Professor Alistair Jump (University of Stirling)
Adrian Budd (Head of Social Sciences Division, London South Bank University)
Amber Jacobs (Birkbeck College)
Andrea Bernardi (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Rowan Tomlinson (University of Bristol)
Professor Tim Gorringe (University of Exeter (retd,))
Professor Trevor Hussey (University of Oxford (retd.))
Shereen Benjamin (University of Edinburgh)
Jennet Thomas (University of the Arts London)
Charlie Louth (University of Oxford)
Paula Smithard (University of the Arts London)
Professor Patrick Ainley (University of Greenwich)
Thom Scott-Phillips (Durham University)
Jonathan Preminger (Cardiff University)
Galia Kollectiv (University of Reading)
Pil Kollectiv (University of Reading)
Martin Fry (University College London)
Viv Kendon (Durham University)
Penny C S Andrews (University of Sheffield)
Michael Costen (former Dean, University of Bristol)
Patricia Alessandrini (University of London)
Chris Redfern (Newcastle University)
David Stewart (Newcastle University)
Newton Armstrong (City University London)
Rob Gawthrop (Falmouth University)
Malcolm Raeburn (University of Salford)
Nalini Vittal (University College London)
Professor Steve Vincent (Newcastle University)
Professor James Ladyman (University of Bristol)
John Child (University of Sussex)
Lisa Smyth (Queen’s Univesity Belfast)
Jo Frankham (Liverpool John Mooores University)
Professor Howard Hotson (University of Oxford)
Peter Wilson (London School of Economics)
Richard Dixon-Payne (London Metropolitan University)
Alun Coker (University College London)
Jack Newsinger (University of Leicester)
Rachel Rosen (University College London)
Professor Jeff Hearn (University of Huddersfield)
Lynne Pettinger (University of Warwick)
Richard Young (Newcastle University)
Andrew Goffey (University of Nottingham)
Sharon Kivland (Sheffield Hallam University)
Daniel Nehring (University of Worcester)
Craig Martin (University of Edinburgh)
Professor Barry Smart (University of Portsmouth)
Gilda Williams (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Professor Alun Hughes (University College London)
Ben Davies (University of Portsmouth)
Franziska Meyer (University of Nottingham)
Conrad Leyser (Worcester College, Oxford)
Carl Faia (Brunel University London)
Helen Johnson (University of Brighton)
Nicholas Lawrence (University of Warwick)
P McCarthy (Sheffield Hallam University)
Pat Devine (University of Manchester)
Karenza Moore (Lancaster University)
Jo Frankham (Liverpool John Moores University)
Paul Reynolds (Edge Hill University)
Professor Hartmut Logemann (University of Bath)
Sam Hayden (Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London)
Rinella Cere (Sheffield Hallam University)
Professor Reinhard Bachmann (SOAS)
Mark Gallagher (University of Nottingham)
Professor Andrew Leak (University College London)
Sara Maioli (Newcastle University)
Professor Andrew Sayer (Lancaster University)
Paul Attinello (Newcastle University)
Giulia Zampini (University of Greenwich)
Professor (Alison Sealey (Lancaster University)
Nicola Pratt (University of Warwick)
Goldie Osuri (University of Warwick)
Rose Butler (Sheffield Hallam University)
Professor Jonathan Long (Leeds Beckett University)
Laura Schwartz (University of Warwick)
Ruth Dar (University College London)
Adam Brandt (Newcastle University)
Professor Christopher J Hall (York St John University)
Katherine Angel (Kingston University)
Professor Mary Rose (Lancaster University (retd.))
Peter Flett (University of Strathclyde)
Professor Michael Loughlin (Manchester Metropolitan University)
David Farmer (Leeds Beckett University)
Professor Nial Tanvir (University of Leicester)
Professor Paul Trayhurn (Universities of Liverpool and Buckingham)
Will Tattersdill (University of Birmingham)
Professor Paul Alan Barker (University of London)
Rahul Rao (SOAS, University of London)
Dagmar Paulus (University College London)
Eda Ulus (University of Leicester)
Sheila McTighe (Courtauld Institute, University of London)
Dan Burrows (University of Brighton)
Richie Nimmo (University of Manchester)
Clare Cunningham (York St John University)
Professor Philip Moriarty (University of Nottingham)
Karoline Wiesner (University of Bristol)
Anne Vanhoestenberghe (University College London)
Professor Julian Petley (Brunel University)
David Taylor (University of Warwick)
Daniel Grey (Plymouth University)
Caroline Wright (University of Warwick)
Laura King (University of Leeds)
Liz Chandler (University of Manchester)
Charles Insley (University of Manchester)
Professor Matthew Beaumont (University College London)
Kate Bradley (University of Kent)
Iain Crinson (St George’s, University of London)
Sarah Winkler-Reid (Newcastle University)
Darren Nixon (Leeds Beckett University)
Chris Grover (Lancaster University)
Ben Davies (University of Portsmouth)
Christopher Roche (University of Bath)
Charlotte Boyce (University of Portsmouth)
Jonathan Pattenden (University of East Anglia)
Professor Bruce Lankford (University of East Anglia)
Caitlin Scott (University of East Anglia)
Emil Dauncey (University of East Anglia)
Dr Oliver Springate-Baginski (University of East Anglia)
Patricia Pulham (University of Portsmouth)
Professor Professor Jane Wheelock (Newcastle University (retd.))
William Monteith (University of East Anglia)
Christina Paine (London Metropolitan University, UCU Anti-casualisation and Women’s Committees)
Nola Merckel (University of East Anglia)
Davide Rizza (University of East Anglia)
Ailie Tam (University of East Anglia)
Tom Pablo Dalby (University of East Anglia)
Roger Baines (UEA)
Carlos de Pablos-Ortega (University of East Anglia)
Professor Peter Kitson (University of East Anglia)
Christine Cornea (University of East Anglia)

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About Sean

Senior Research Fellow, Survey of English Usage, University College London
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