Effort to Create a National System of Higher Education in Great Britain, 1850-2010. The Conflict of State Regulation and Academic Autonomy

Author: Evans, G.R.
Unique in its examination of the development of state regulation of higher education in the United Kingdom during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, with reference to the interplay of policy-strands and government initiatives involving the use of public funding to ‘drive change’, and the struggle to protect university autonomy and academic freedom. It analyzes the progress of the struggle between state control and academic institutional autonomy with its concomitant traditions of academic freedom. The reference work relies directly on the documents and discussions which have underpinned this process.


“The question addressed by this book is an important one. Gillian Evans approaches it from one perspective. Not everyone will agree with either that perspective or the conclusions, but in the best scholarly tradition she sets out the evidence and argues from that evidence to those conclusions. The debate is important and this book is a valuable contribution to that debate.” – Bahram Bekhradnia, Higher Education Policy Institute

“. . . makes an eloquent and persuasive case that for universities to do their job, they need security and consistency of policy and funding.” – Paul Ramsden, Higher Education Academy

“G.R. Evans has tackled the topic with her usual verve, taking us over the course of a century from the Victorian State being relatively hands-off with regard to universities and where universities were essentially administered as academic enterprises (despite the northern civics being firmly linked to local industry) to their being nowadays the victims both of excessive external control by government through an extensive quangocracy obsessing over governance and also of inefficient internal control as managed by legions of bureaucrats led by a chief executive vice-chancellor.” – David Palfreyman, Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies

“This isn’t just required reading for students of intellectual history and politics; it will also be extremely valuable to anyone involved in university administration. I wish this book had been around when I was first elected to our governing body in 2002. Even in the seven years since I haven’t learned as much as I did in seven days reading this book.” – Prof. Ross Anderson, University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory

“A controversial approach to much that is central to the existence of universities in modem Britain.”– Prof. Drummond Bone, Former President, Universities UK

Table of Contents

Foreword by Bahram Bekhradnia
Introduction: the modern questions emerge
i The nineteenth century tries to define a university
Civic universities
The London experiment: including the outsiders
Was this multiplication and diversity a good thing?
International comparisons, national competitiveness and links with industry
Links with industry
Academic autonomy and national need
ii A muddle of myths
iii Hastings Rashdall writes a history of the first universities
iv Finding a place for the university in society
v The university as a community
vi A university should teach universal knowledge: Newman’s mistake
vii What are the limits?
Can anyone create a university at will?
Is a mere examining body or a degree-awarding body a university?
A research institution does not necessarily make a university
A spread of subjects: can a specialist institution be a university?
What is special about universities?
1. The ladder, the block and the buffer
2. Widening access and social mobility
3. Universities and a higher ‘technical’ education
4. The end of academic complacency
5. Redrawing the boundaries
6. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy: The great debate
7. The learning contract: A new relationship with society
8. Running a university like a business
9. The Dearing Report
10. The pursuit of truth gives way to the pursuit of PR
11. Universities engage with entrepreneurship and employment
12. The State tries to take control of ‘transfer’ knowledge
13. Quality Assurance
14. Trust and the Light Touch: the lighter regulation paradox
15. Eroding the line between ‘further’ and ‘higher’ education
16. Skills for employment
17. The international university and the world