What is this likely to actually mean for education? Degrees that lead to jobs that aren’t particularly highly paid (such as archaeology, for example) might see a decline in applicants, which would make the courses increasingly unsustainable for the universities to offer and could result in them being dropped. We’re already seeing cuts to courses that aren’t profitable and it can only get worse. Students wishing to enter higher education simply to learn and develop themselves – which is what education should be about – as opposed to studying with a particular career in mind might be put off university altogether by the increasing levels of debt.
If we look at existing private universities (of which there are currently two in the UK, BPP and Buckingham. The company owning the BPP university is currently under investigation in the US over its “recruiting, admissions and financial aid practices” in its American universities), it is clear that privatisation of the higher education system would mean a reduction in the courses available. Privatisation would allow universities to cherry pick the courses which would make them the most money, such as law and finance, instead of offering a full range of courses in a variety of disciplines. With fewer diversity in courses available, education would shift even further towards courses that primarily prepare students for work, as those courses would be the most profitable for the universities to offer.