Hartley begins by giving a background to the book, talking about the coalition’s restructuring of public services:
Since coming to power, the coalition government has set in motion a monumental restructuring of the way in which public services are funded and provided. By now, it is clear that austerity is merely a banner behind which the government is transforming the public sector. Were the country to emerge from recession, the government would have no intention of restoring pre-2008 spending levels or reversing its structural changes. The privatised state is here to stay.
He then praises the book’s dedication to “dig behind the headline legislation”:
To understand the scale of the coalition’s restructuring of the British state it is necessary to connect the dots and dig behind the headline legislation. The Great University Gamble does just that, and shows that the government’s changes to the higher-education system are in reality part of a single, conscious project of restructuring the whole of the sector. The greatest difficulty in understanding the government’s policy for higher education is the fact that most of its reforms have taken place behind the scenes, without primary legislation passing through parliament. McGettigan’s meticulously researched book pulls back the curtain on the government’s project to reveal the frightening scale of its plans.
Hartley goes on to question the wisdom behind treating degree as commodities:
To treat degrees as commodities, it is necessary to overlook the social functions of universities. These range from grand ideas, such as the maintenance and transmission of culture, to the more mundane, such as the availability of university resources to communities. Instead, the focus is on the individual value of degrees to students. To commodify education further, students must be encouraged to think of themselves as consumers purchasing an investment that will bring them higher wages and greater career prospects. However, this is to ignore the social value of education for its own sake.
He ends by describing The Great University Gamble as “vital”:
In aiding our understanding of the government’s higher education policy, The Great University Gamble is timely and vital. However, it is also an indication of the changes that are taking place in all other sectors. The project McGettigan sheds light on in the higher-education sector is taking place across the public sector – most clearly in healthcare provision and welfare. Many of these changes are already underway, but it is not too late to build a mass movement that would bring them to wider public attention and halt their progress.
To buy McGettigan’s book for just £15 (free UK P&P), click on the cover image below:
“We are all indebted to Andrew McGettigan for the public service he is performing through his forensic research on the Coalition Government’s wholly obscure and yet revolutionary legislative programme of change for the country’s HE sector. He is in my opinion by far the most knowledgeable person in the country on this subject, providing us with a full and independent view of the short, medium and longer-term implications of the government’s plans. This book is essential and deeply worrying reading.”
Simon Szreter, Professor of History and Public Policy, University of Cambridge
“Andrew McGettigan is one of the most respected and incisive commentators on higher education. There are no other texts at present that address the political economy of higher education and none that put all the pieces of the jigsaw together to reveal the picture with such clarity.”
John Holmwood, Professor of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham, co-founder of the Campaign for the Public University and editor of A Manifesto for the Public University (2011)