‘Contestability’ : buzzword that could open academy’s doors to private interest. Overview of an article in the Times Higher Education Supplement, April 28 th 2006 citing Dr. Glenn Rikowski, senior lecturer in Education Studies, Northampton University. By Paul Catherall

The Press

‘Contestability’ : buzzword that could open academy’s doors to private interest.

Overview of an article in the Times Higher Education Supplement, April 28 th 2006 citing Dr. Glenn Rikowski, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, Northampton University.

By Paul Catherall.

This article, by Nic Parton outlines the emergence of ‘contestability’ in education and other public sectors, this is essentially the opening-up of state-run organisations and services such as FE colleges, Hospitals and Universities to private sector competition.

Examples of outsourcing within public sector organisations included the transfer of English language courses to the private company, Study Group International at the University of Northampton and the remodelling of some FE colleges as training providers for the private sector.

Di McEvoy-Robinson, a former FE college principal and director of Carter and Carter, a private training company comments:

“You could have an employee from age 16 following a straight line from apprenticeship to Further Education and on to a first degree, all the time working with the same commercial training provider.”

The new Government White Paper for Further Education raises the possibility that FE colleges will be scrutinised for performance, with underachieving colleges facing corporate competition to manage or deliver their services; analogies to this situation included private treatment centres in the NHS.

Dr. Glenn Rikowski observed that private sector involvement in FE colleges could potentially ‘spill over’ to Higher Education, with ‘ex-polytechnics …most likely to be ripe for change in that direction”.

It is clear from this article that there is a growing momentum in the language and policies of the present Government to facilitate private sector competition in UK public services, albeit under surrogate terms such as ‘contestability’.

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