While much of the current debate on higher education has focused on what is seen, namely the immediate benefits of government spending and national planning, it has tended to neglect what is not seen – the hidden costs and unintended consequences of these interventions.

First, there is no evidence to suggest that there is any economic benefit to the nation as a whole from the Government transferring £14.3 billion each year from taxpayers’ wallets to students and universities.  Second, neither is there any evidence to suggest that the public benefits associated with spending £14.3 billion on higher education will be higher or somehow better than the public benefits associated with taxpayers spending £14.3 billion themselves.  Third, while many are convinced that the annual subsidy is helping to create a more equal and just society, it is impossible to escape the fact that part of this subsidy represents a transfer of income from those on lower incomes to those who will soon be on higher incomes.

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • What is seen in higher education
  • What is not seen in higher education
  • Why the £14.3 billion subsidy?
  • There is no such thing as free higher education
  • Undermining the autonomy and independence of private institutions
  • Crowding out philanthropic donations
  • Combinimng and confusing academic, professional and vocational education
  • Suppressing, distorting and capping tuition fees
  • Crowding out for-profit institutions and entrepreneurial talent
  • Restricting and preventing competition and innovation
  • Qualification inflaton
  • Conclusions
  • Policy recommendations


The Broken University: What is Seen and What is Not Seen in the UK Higher Education Sector

Book review

Thinking like an economist, George Leef, Pope Centre for Higher Education Poicy, 23rd June 2010.


Taxpayer beware: the hidden cost of the taxpayer’s helping hand. James Stanfield, THES, 4th April 2010.

Adam Smith report calls for right turn to privatised academy, Melanie Newman, THES, 4th April 2010.

Cap on tuition fees should be scrapped, BBC News, THES, 4th April 2010.

Abolish cap on tuition fees, Daily Telegraph, 4th April 2010.