Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education
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Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education

Edited by Brendan Cantwell, Hamish Coates and Roger King

Understanding the politics of Higher Education is becoming more important as the sector is increasingly recognised as a vital source of innovation, skills, economic prosperity, and personal wellbeing. Yet key political differences remain over such issues as who should pay for higher education, how should it be accountable, and how we measure its quality and productivity. Particularly, are states or markets the key in helping to address such matters. The Handbook provides framing perspectives and perspectives, chapters on funding, governance and regulation, and pieces on the political economy of higher education and on the increased role of external stakeholders and indicators.
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Chapter 19: Regulating diversity: the challenges of regulation in pluralistic higher education systems, a UK case study

Elizabeth Halford


In common with many other systems of higher education, in both developed and developing economies, the UK has expanded from an elite to a universal system, incorporating public and private providers in a mixed economy. The policy drivers for this expansion include government aspirations to improve social mobility and widen participation. Also to compete in global economic markets, and meet greater student demand without increasing public funding for higher education. Inherent within this mixed economy are a number of diversities, of different types, which present challenges to regulators. This chapter will explore the nature of diversities within the UK system and its particular context, with a focus on the challenges posed for quality assessment by the diversity of students and their prior experiences of education, the diversity of providers, and of delivery contexts. The English government has sought to encourage a more diverse system of higher education through its policy to establish a ‘level playing field’ for publicly and privately funded providers, at the same time as creating a market with students at the heart of the system.

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