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private top-ups in education June 7, 2011

Posted by Bradley in : markets , trackback

Whereas we often think of education as being separated into private and public sectors there are a couple of illustrations recently that private education may operate alongside public education in troubling ways. One is a report prepared for the EU Commission on The Challenge of Shadow Education which focuses on tutoring in the EU. One of the report’s conclusions is that:

private tutoring is much less about pupils who are in real need of help that they cannot find at school, and much more about maintaining the competitive advantages of the already successful and privileged.

At a time of austerity, where funding for social programs is under threat, this is particularly troubling. The privileged can mitigate – for themselves – the damage caused to public education systems caused by spending cuts. And, in the UK, they will be able to think about sending their offspring to the glitzy New College for the Humanities (see Eagleton v Johnson) which will offer courses taught by celebrity academics and (courtesy of the University of London International Programmes (which used to be the external degree)) a University of London degree. I think the fuss about plagiarism of syllabi is a bit overblown, as the work of publicly funded academics should surely benefit the public. The London external program has been running for a very long time, and has some very eminent alumni, including Derek Walcott and Ronald Coase. Not that it is clear that many of the future students of the New College for the Humanities will ever be among them.

Update 3.45pm: In the US my colleague Osamudia James argues that for-profit higher education isn’t as useful to students as the providers claim.


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