Here are an interesting set of thoughts, with thanks to Dr Margit T for mentioning this paper to me.
The paper begins with the statement that
“At the heart of the Browne Report and the government’s higher education policy is a simple notion allegedly grounded in economics: that the introduction of market forces into the higher education sector will simultaneously drive up standards and drive down prices.”
It then goes on to discuss the basis on which university standards are usually discussed: the world university rankings, in which the US typically dominates over half the top 20 positions. However, Hotson unpicks these data, calibrating for population, GDP and investment in tertiary education. He thus comes to the following proposition:
“The UK has somehow managed to maintain top-ranked universities for only about a fifth of the US price”
Thus, he concludes,- “The natural interpretation of the World University Rankings flies in the face of the key assumption underpinning current British government policy … In terms of value for money, the British system is far better, and probably the best in the world. Willetts should follow the example of the health secretary, take advantage of a ‘natural break in the legislative process’, and go back to the drawing board.”