Douglas Carswell

04 DEC 2015

It's time to break the college cartel

Isn't it odd that almost all British universities charge undergraduates the full £9k a year? The idea was that different universities providing different kinds of education would charge different prices. Yet instead they all charge the same. Why? Because they are a cartel.

Universities aren't just a cartel for fees. They are a cartel for ideas. Yes, there is still incredible research in the sciences – because it is hard to politicise the empirical method. But in the humanities and social sciences, leftist orthodoxies are barely ever challenged. Universities are so dominated by leftist groupthink that they actively silence anyone who thinks differently.

Groupthink has meant that publicly funded universities no longer serve a public purpose. Since the 1970s in America, think tanks replaced universities as the producers of new ideas. Now the same has happened here.

Who is producing new ideas to deal with our broken public finances? In the last month, the IEA, the Adam Smith Institute, and the Legatum Institute have all launched projects challenging fundamental economic assumptions with long-term thinking. Three think tanks are producing more than the whole university system.

Who is coming up with new thinking to fix our broken banking system? The only major, radical thinker at a university is Jesus Huerta de Soto. Otherwise, the only places to find original ideas are think tanks like the Cobden Centre.

Universities are unable to challenge Establishment ideas because they are the Establishment. They share the same statist outlook because they are all big, bureaucratic, taxpayer-funded organisations. Just like at the BBC, leftist assumptions are institutionalised and pervasive. Supporting the free market, controlled immigration, and responsible government spending would run counter to their whole ethos.

As a result, the ivory tower is higher than ever before. Universities are cut off from society. They rely on a research funding model that backs projects precisely because the market – i.e. ordinary people – would never have any use for them. They think they have a right to taxpayers' money, even though the vast majority of taxpayers don't benefit from anything they do.

People across the world are realising the political cartel needs to be broken. The academic cartel should be next in line.

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