How English universities could learn from the American higher education system


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Universities should be freed from bureaucratic state control to create a British 'Ivy League'
At the IEA today, Sir Cyril Taylor*, Chancellor of Richmond University, will launch his new report** on British higher education reform. Taylor believes that there are a number of lessons the UK could learn from the US and, as a result, we could create a British “Ivy League” and raise participation rates towards US levels. The author recommends the following:

  • Like their US counterparts, UK universities should be free of state control. They should set their own tuition fees, student numbers and their particular educational focus. It is unacceptable, argues the author, that British universities have their numbers capped, both generally and by subject, by the government. Artificially imposed limits on student fees should be abolished.

  • In return for this greater freedom, universities should provide prospective students with information on drop-out rates, the proportion of students on financial aid, applications to places ratios and their financial status, so that students could exercise their choice of institution on an informed basis.

  • More institutional diversity should be created in the UK. It is strongly recommended that we encourage the establishment of new types of higher education institutions with their own degree awarding powers. This could include improving the status of further education colleges, but also the establishment of further profit-making institutions with degree awarding powers.

  • The discrimination that currently exists in the UK against part-time and mature students in the student loans system should be removed.

  • Bureaucratic and toothless state-accreditation bodies should be replaced by a wider range of private alternatives. Accreditation bodies should facilitate credit transfer systems between groups of universities so students can move universities during their courses.

  • Significant, but short-term government support should be provided through the tax system to allow universities to establish endowment funds to finance student bursaries, capital building programmes and research.* Sir Cyril Taylor GBE is Chancellor of Richmond, the American International University in London.

    **How English Universities Could Learn from the American Higher Education System, by Sir Cyril Taylor GBE, IEA Discussion Paper No. 25.