A Comparative Analysis
Chapter 6: UK: The University as Economic Actor
6. UK: the university as economic actor Sabrina Colombo 6.1 CHANGES IN THE BRITISH HE SYSTEM In the UK, relations between universities and the economic sector have long been promoted through specific policies and reforms aimed at evaluating and enhancing academic activities. The first decisive initiatives go back to the period of the Conservative governments. These initiatives tried to augment the relation between the curricula and the needs of the economic actors. A typical example is the ‘Enterprise in Higher Education’ initiative of the early 1980s that funded teaching programmes that included business-oriented courses. Moreover, the reorganization of research funding based on assessment indirectly encouraged the institutions to seek private funding. In fact, in 1981, just like public-funded bodies, universities became subject to public spending cuts. However, the most significant reform was the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992 that ended the binary system (the polytechnics and colleges could obtain the status of university1) and the Funding Councils, independent bodies (no more academic based) were established to manage public funds. These bodies were entrusted with the task of creating committees to assess the quality of HE: in 1997, the Quality Assurance Agency for the curricula; in 1996, the four-yearly assessment for research (RAE). Since they were connected to the Funding Councils, these assessment instruments began to have a strong impact on university funding since the funds allocated depended on the assessment results (Kogan and Hanney 2000; Kogan et al. 2000). On the other hand, with the Education Reform Act...
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