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Response to the National Audit Office report

  • 8 December 2017

In response to the National Audit Office’s new report on The higher education market, Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

It is true that the higher education market is still evolving and that there are areas where further improvements can be made – such as improved information for applicants. It is also good that the NAO have highlighted the sharp decline in part-time students, which is an urgent problem that needs tackling.

But it is wrong to think higher education will ever resemble other markets very closely. For example, there are fee caps, nearly everyone is entitled to an income-contingent loan and you only know the full value of your degree long after you have graduated. It is not meant to be a perfect market – nor should it become one.

There is a world of difference between buying a tin of beans and making the right decision about higher education. Of course, mis-selling can happen when people apply for degrees. But it is an inherently difficult thing to assess because no one knows how they will change as a person as a result of their education. Straight comparisons between regular markets and educational markets don’t actually make much sense.

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