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Title: Implementing the financial provisions of the Higher Education Act (2004) – English universities in a new quasi-market
Author: Carasso, Helen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 4669
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2010
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The financial provisions of the HE Act (2004) were intended to introduce market forces into the relationship between higher education institutions in England and their full-time Home/EU undergraduates. The policies that underpinned that legislation were established by Parliamentarians during a period of intense public and political debate which accompanied the passage of the Act and now, as suppliers in a nascent quasi-market, universities are de facto responsible for their delivery. With that market beginning to stabilise, this research compares those political objectives with observed outcomes of the introduction of the Act. Primary data has been collected through semi-structured interviews with key decision-makers in six sample universities – chosen to reflect both the spread of institutions in the sector and the range of pricing policies in operation – and with those involved nationally in shaping the legislation. From this material, supported by secondary quantitative and qualitative evidence, university pricing strategies are considered, in the context of theories of marketing and of higher education management, to provide an understanding of how institutions have structured their financial offerings with the aim of targeting specific markets for applicants. Data from the sample institutions is then used to build a profile of the quasi-market that the suppliers within it are generating. Even though members of the sample have taken diverse approaches to price-setting, there are some clear consistencies that typify this emerging national market: prices are set through adjustments to bursaries, not fees; and complex financial offerings have created barriers to effective communication. Furthermore, as institutional managers analyse the effects of their own pricing strategies locally, they are observing these trends and thus, where any changes are being made, these tend towards simplification of bursary schemes and hence increasing homogeneity across the sector. However, with the (index-linked) £3000 cap which currently applies to fees, it is increasingly apparent that the current quasi-market for full-time Home/EU undergraduates at English universities has not reached its price-sensitivity point and hence, this research argues, the market is not operating fully. Therefore, while this study offers an understanding of motivations behind current institutional actions and the nature of the resulting quasi-market, it also explains why it is not feasible to extrapolate from this information to forecast how the market might work were regulatory parameters to be changed significantly.
Supervisor: Ertl, Hubert Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education ; Economics and education ; Public policy ; Social mobility ; Higher Education ; HE Act (2004) ; England ; student funding ; participation in higher education