Higher education in UK has undergone a profound and fast change in the past twenty years. In the last twenty years, UK government’s policy has been proactive as manifested in education spheres of quality control, access, and finance…
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In addition, radical changes have been witnessed as evidenced by expansion in the number of universities, the elimination of formal categories of institutions, and the expansion of larger, comprehensive institutions. The number of universities increased from 48 in 1984 to 106 (by 2007). Similarly, there has been the provision of education along market or “quasi-market” lines. However, the state still remains the principal funder and regulator of higher education. Changes in Higher Education in UK in the past twenty years In 1992, UK government enacted Further and Higher Education Act, which heralded dramatic change within higher education in UK. Since 1965, the British higher education had been organized on the “binary system.” The term infers the division between universities and other institutions such as polytechnics, technical colleges, and teachers’ training colleges (Watson 1989, p. 284). Nevertheless, in 1992, the binary system was abolished and the former Polytechnics were upgraded into universities. The expansion was also contributed by legislation in 2004 that allowed colleges without research degree awarding powers to obtain a university title (Vught 2009, p. 7). Higher education within UK has evolved spectacularly within the last twenty years. Most of the interrelated factors that have had a significant effect on the higher education landscape in UK include an upsurge in student numbers, a drop in staff/ student ratio, widening participation, and a transformation of the management style within the higher education. In the mid-1990s, the patterns as well as the ethos of British higher education were distinctly different from those in the 1970s (Greenway & Haynes 2003, p. 152). The structural changes within the UK higher education have come amid government demands for enhanced management efficiency. As a result, issues such as autonomy and freedom as well as accountability and appraisal have sprouted up. Similarly, the number of young people receiving higher education has dramatically changed over the years. As a matter of fact, the aggregate student numbers within UK have doubled over the last twenty years. For instance, in 1961only 5% of young people received higher education, compared to 34% in 1997. The government has as well declared a policy to raise it to 50%. For the last twenty years, the number of students pursuing higher education has more than doubled, whereas the unit of funding per student has been falling significantly. In addition, the staff-student ratio has been rising astronomically over the last twenty years. This has been contributed partly by massification policy of the UK government (Deem, Hillyard & Reed 2007, p.4). However, access to higher education in the UK has been skewed over the last twenty years. The participation in higher education has largely been the preserve of higher socio-economic groups within UK (Black 2005, p. 128). Access to higher education in UK is uneven; this can be expressed by the fact that most of the chances of attaining higher education are more open to young people in the upper tier of the economic class. Most of the young people, especially from the working class background, have not had an easy access to higher education in the UK. Moreover, research done in this area indicates that the gap in higher education participation between the richer and the poorer students has in reality broadened, especially in the mid and late 1990s. The expansion of higher education in UK has in effect increased education inequalities rather than reducing them. This is evidenced by statistics, which suggest that most of the participants in the higher educa
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