System differentiation in England: the imposition of supply and demand

MCCAIG, Colin (2018). System differentiation in England: the imposition of supply and demand. In: BOWL, Marion, MCCAIG, Colin and HUGHES, Jonathan, (eds.) Equality and differentiation in marketised higher education: a new level playing field? Palgrave Studies in Excellence and Equity in Global Education . London, Palgrave, 73-93.

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This chapter describes changing state and sector policy in relation to differentiation and how it has emerged in the English HE context: specifically, the attempts to concentrate the highest qualified applicants and the most prestigious institutions in a 'premium' market segment; the significance of the growing involvement of private providers; and the rise of the ‘student-as-consumer’ and 'value for money' in recent government policy discourse (e.g. the White Papers Students at the Heart of the System (DBIS 2011a) and Success as a Knowledge Economy (DBIS 2016). The chapter situates the development of a market hierarchy (in the form of a vertical differentiation of institutions, Archer 2007) following the demise of the university-polytechnic binary system in 1992 (Further and Higher Education Act, HMSO 1992). This co-existed for several years with the institutional diversity often celebrated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (e.g. HEFCE 1994; 2000) that can be conceptualised as the horizontal differentiation of valued types of higher education provision and provider (e.g. part-time or vocationally orientated). The introduction of market mechanisms, in various stages beginning with the 2004 Higher Education Act (DfES 2004) and the introduction of variable tuition fees, coincided with the publication of institutional league tables from 2005. Taken together, these have reinforced a hierarchical system in which all institutions and courses are henceforth differentiated only by reference to a set of criteria dominated by the entry requirements demanded, and the amount of research carried out by the institution. Given the implications of the most recent legislation – the Higher Education and Research Act (HMSO 2017) this hierarchy is likely to be matched by one signalled by tuition fee levels, as new cheaper 'challenger' institutions come to the market.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: widening participation; system differentiation; diversity; neoliberalism; marketisation
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Institute of Education
Page Range: 73-93
Depositing User: Colin Mccaig
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2018 15:25
Last Modified: 18 May 2021 01:18

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