The Price of Education

Posted: 17 November 2010, in Blog

The Scottish HE sector looks as if it is stuffed and the financial impact of Swinney’s budget and the May 2011 elections will probably herald a period of decline for the sector. Does this matter?

For those directly affected, of course it does. For society as a whole I’m uncertain. Our model of higher education is based on a system where the taxpayer – student/customer – supplier relationship is open to queries re costs, value for money, effectiveness and relevance. As a society we should ask ourselves – “is it fit for purpose”?

I dip into the Tory blogosphere now and then to update myself on how “the enemy” is thinking. Maybe it is an age thing, but I find myself open to some of their analytical critiques of the public sector but remain unimpressed with their addiction to market solutions.  “Public sector bad” – “Private sector good” is so reductive and inane it hardly merits a response except “aye right”.

There is a private university in the UK called the University of Buckingham. Think of Thatcherism meeting the US university model with Chris Woodhead as cheerleader – the folk who set it up were mainly Oxbridge types who rejected “The State” and all the educational liberalism within the sector. Meanwhile, Keir Bloomer a Scottish local government expert has suggested that local authorities are part of the problem and not part of the solution to improve our schools.

What does all this mean? In truth, I haven’t got a clue. However, maybe we are at a tipping point and the economic crisis will create a climate of innovation and creativity within education in Scotland – up to now the suppliers have been in control of the debate and this may well change – because we’re skint.

Here is an idea, if your local school is for the chop, move beyond the photo opp of placard carrying kids outside the school gates. Instead, set up a social enterprise to take over the school – warts and all and seek to compete. Make it charitable, attract teachers interested in teaching and less interested in box ticking and challenge the very notion that our education system is world class and that our councils are masters of management and educational ambition – hell, put up a couple of candidates at local elections to annoy the local councillors.

Go on; think of it as a New Reformation, after all, Old Knoxy and his pals put in place a system that did achieve great results. Maybe we need to find a new social entrepreneur leader in (a bit of) his mould who can carry this agenda forward.

Check out this link if you wanna start a revolution