Collini: the misleading metaphor of ‘the market’

In an article in the Evening Standard yesterday, Stefan Collini focuses on the crux of the problem with the government’s proposals — that ‘education cannot function as a true market because the “consumers” are not in a position to know in advance what they are supposed to want.’ The assumption of the Browne report, reiterated by David Willetts, is that consumer choice will somehow improve the quality of the student experience. Quite how this is supposed to happen is entirely unclear. In the light of the almost complete removal of the teaching grant and the slashing of the research budget announced earlier this week, Collini wonders what the government imagines the effect of their reforms will be:

“Do they mean that courses will, at short notice, have to be scrapped because unaccountably student demand has fluctuated that year? Do they mean that if most students say they want to take media studies, then physics and French will close to cater to this demand? Do they mean that more students will (wastefully) drop out if they are not “satisfied”? Do they mean some universities will go bankrupt because dodgy “private providers” will undercut them?”

The full article can be read here.

[EDIT: Terry Eagleton has argued in the Guardian that (1) since governments cannot defend investment in the humanities on ground of economic competitiveness, and (2) there is ‘no university without humane inquiry’, that ‘universities and advanced capitalism are fundamentally incompatible.’ ]

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