Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education

John Doyle (Oxford University)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Doyle, J. (2004), "Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 18 No. 7, pp. 455-456.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

David Kirp has for those of us in Britain produced a very timely book. In the last ten years there has been in Britain a considerable debate as to the role of our university sector, with many initially arguing for the status quo to be maintained; an elite university sector aimed at the education of a highly selected group of students. However, as successive governments have introduced policies resulting in non‐traditional students entering higher education, with the present target of fifty percent of school leavers going on to university as opposed to only eight percent twenty years ago; no one would seriously believe that the status quo is a position that can be maintained. The recent decision by government to allow universities to charge tuition fees at £3000 per year has major implications even for the Russell Group of leading research based universities.

Therefore David Kirp's examination of the impact of market forces on institutions that thought of themselves as liberal “ivy towers” is to be welcomed, as it enormously helps to clarify the debate now taking place within the British higher education system. The former polytechnics, the so‐called “new universities” within the British system that always had an emphasis on vocational courses, maintaining links with local employers and communities, and on recruiting non‐traditional students are in many ways well placed to take advantage of the new environment.

However many in the Russell Group have embraced the market half‐heartedly, at the back of their minds is the belief that they can protect themselves from the need to engage with the market, while maintaining their degrees in the study of classics. Yet Oxbridge is continually questioned as to why their colleges should receive public funding, when essentially providing places for the children of the most privileged in British society. Indeed Oxbridge and the elite London University colleges such as Imperial and the LSE have calculated that even with the £3000 increase in student tuition they will still lose money on the cost of educating their students. Reluctantly the Russell Group is facing up to the fact that their environment to use management speak has changed.

What was the unthinkable is being thought, radical changes in courses, more foreign students at under‐graduate level, increasing the number of vocational courses, and arguing for realistic tuition fees. This is going to be a very painful process of change that will require informed debate, if the best of the past of these institutions is to be preserved. David Kirp's is simply an essential read to those of us concerned about the future of Britain's most successful universities.

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