A newspaper article caught my attention this weekend: it described the suggestion that a group of independent schools in the UK would get together and create their own private university! Is this a good idea and what would it mean for the sector as a whole?
Currently we only have one private university in the UK: the university of Buckingham. Interestingly this place always rates very highly on student satisfaction surveys. And it’s the changing student experience at public-funded institutions that encouraged the proposal to found a new private university.
The argument is that the elite universities in this country are too focused on research and don’t care about teaching at all, whereas the post-1992 universities that are teaching-focused teach students in groups that are too large allowing for minimal personal contact. They wish to found a private university along the lines of a liberal arts college in the US that will be dedicated to providing high quality teaching. It will take students purely on merit with no regard to their background.
Across the world, the Higher Education sector is increasingly turning to private partnerships in the belief that relying purely on public funding holds an institution back. And with the cuts in public spending on universities announced recently, this difference can only get more stark. For example Cardiff University has a partnership with the private London School of Commerce and Liverpool University with US Laureate Education. For more on this see this story in University World News.
Those who oppose the move say that private partnerships and institutions will encourage elitism and will squeeze out the marginal, non-traditional university attending groups in society. But perhaps we need change in order to maintain standards and to counter the funding cuts that will mean it will be even more challenging to maintain high teaching standards. What do you think?