CGHE Webinar 366

Higher education and public good: The case of the UK

Date: Thursday, 29 June 2023 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Event Materials

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In Anglophone jurisdictions policy highlights the private goods associated with higher education, especially salary levels and rates of employment, but largely neglects goods not measured as economic values (public goods), including non-pecuniary individual benefits and collective social outcomes. Governments are largely silent on the importance and the funding of public goods. The paper reports on a study of understandings of the public good role of higher education in the UK, primarily England, part of a cross-national comparison of 11 countries. The study included review of selected ‘watershed’ policy reports and 24 semi-structured interviews in contrasting universities (13) and among policy makers, national organisations, and experts on higher education (11).

The study found that the UK now has no policy language for talking about outcomes of higher education other than individualised economic benefits, research impact, knowledge exchange and widening participation (access to education as a private good). Awareness of multiple public goods has been suppressed to justify successive fee increases and the English market model. Nearly all interviewees, including policy makers and advisers, pushed back against this, and provided examples of public goods in higher education, though the concepts lacked rigour and clarity. The policy notion of a zero-sum split of private and public outcomes (the more private is higher education, the less it is public), reflecting economic models of the split of private/public costs, was rejected by the interviewees in favour of an additive relation of private/public.

Event Notes

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