Nicholas Barr and Iain Crawford (1998), 'The Dearing Report and the Government's Response: A Critique', Political Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 1, January-March 1998, pp. 72-84.
The central fact of British higher education is the increase in the participation rate from an elite 5 per cent in the early 1960s to a mass 30 per cent by the mid-1990s. Recent expansion has been particularly sharp - from 14 per cent in 1990 - but has occurred without any parallel increase in funding, leading to problems which are both economic and political.
There are three sets of economic problems. First, universities are poor. Student numbers in Britain almost doubled between 1990 and 1996. Real funding per student fell by nearly 30 per cent. 1
Second, students are poor. There is widespread agreement that students need about 20 per cent more to cover their living costs than is available from the current mix of grant, parental contribution and loan. To make, matters worse, many students do not receive even that inadequate amount. Studies show that in the early 1980s about half the students entitled to a parental contribution received less than the assessed amount, and the shortfall was substantial; on average, those students whose parents gave them less than the grant system supposed received only £53 of every £100 of assessed parental contribution. 2