Tim Leunig on Higher Education Funding

1 06 2011

Tim Leunig is an accomplished economic history who has given a great deal of thought to the issue of what sorts of policies encourage economic growth. He has published on the following topics: The effects of new technology on productivity in Britain, 1800-2000; Effects of industrial structure on the British cotton industry; anthropometric history; the performance of railways in Britain, 1840-2009; economic geography. In 2008, he created a media fire storm in Britain by suggesting (in a non-peer reviewed publication of the think tank Policy Exchange) that whole towns in the economically depressed north of the country be levelled and their populations be relocated to greater London, where there are more employment opportunities. This proposal earned him several death threats and was denounced by politicians including David Cameron, who is now Prime Minister.  Cameron, who was visiting a town in northern England the day teh report was released had this to say about it and Leunig.

This report is rubbish from start to finish,” he said, repeating the charge four times in two minutes. “I think the author himself said it might be a bit barmy. It is barmy.” Referring to the report’s co-author Tim Leunig, he added: “I gather he’s off to Australia. The sooner he gets on the ship the better.”

Most of what he has said is pretty sensible, however.

At LSE, his teaching duties include:  EH101 The Internationalisation of Economic Growth (co-lecturer: Professor Albrecht Ritschl) ; EH240 British Business and Contemporary Economic Performance; EH304 The Economic History of North America: from Colonial Times to the Cold War (co-lecturer: Dr Chris Minns;  EH464 The Historical Context of Business.

Personally, I think that every politician in the world should have to take and pass EH101, Leunig’s first year course. You can watch the lectures and get course documents by logging into LSE’s Moodle as a guest.

Because of his research interests, Leunig is well qualified to speak about the future of higher education, which is currently being restructured in the UK.  I therefore read his recent working paper on the economics of higher education with great interest. (It was published by Centre Forum, which is associated with the Liberal Democrats). I note with interest that much of what he says in the report is consistent with what I have said earlier on this blog.

Here is an excerpt from the summary:

We cannot say for sure how much a university education should cost. But we note that BPP are offering courses at fees below £4,000 a year, and that London Metropolitan University has announced that it will be charging less than £6,000 a year. In addition, the fees per hour of tuition at St Paul’s Girl’s School imply university fees of around £5,000 a year. Fees of £9,000 are not necessary, and should not become the norm. But to avoid this we need to create real, sustainable incentive mechanisms to deliver fees that make sense for students and taxpayers. This paper sets out how to do that.

You can read the full report here.

Leunig also writes for the Guardian newspaper.



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