Higher Education a Market Like Any Other?

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The Department for Education is attempting to use lessons from economics to spur competition in higher education in the UK , in order to improve access and quality and reduce price. Laudable as these goals are, in this paper it is argued that there are aspects of higher education that are unlike other markets and which may make standard solutions to non‐competitive price behaviour ineffective. New insights into decision making from behavioural sciences, which challenge the notion of rationality in many students’ higher education choices, are also discussed. Recent research has suggested some interventions that may nudge students towards decisions that help achieve the objectives for higher education set out by the Department for Education. It is argued that the Department for Education might be more successful in reaching its objectives if it focused more on these behavioural insights and interventions, and less on trying to make HE function like the competitive market that it is not.

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John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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The Political Quarterly