Private growth in the sector is a tender subject, but the reality is more complex than ideologues on both sides would have it
It was recently suggested that Times Higher Education has a “bee in its bonnet” about private providers. As appealing as the idea of THE having a bonnet may be, the automatic reaction to such an accusation is indignation. But on reflection, it did give pause for thought.
Has the focus on private providers by THE and the sector at large in the past few years been over the top? Or has the undoubted growth in interest been commensurate with the increasing significance of private players under a Conservative-led coalition government?
As is now typical, there are several articles on private provision in this week’s issue. One is a report of a debate hosted at an old Soho watering hole by THE and The New York Review of Books, at which A.C. Grayling presented the case for his £18,000-a-year New College of the Humanities. The participants included some of Grayling’s famous supporters but also staunch critics of the privatisation of higher education.
What was striking was the ideological position from which most on both sides argued, particularly on the issue of who would be able to afford the fees being charged, a fact that made the debate seem very polarised indeed.