What business do universities have in academy schools?

Nadia Edmond, University of Brighton

There has been a transformation in English education in the last decade – the academies programme has brought private trusts and corporate sponsors into the schools system. These have included a steady trickle of the country’s universities as they seek a business advantage, a better corporate image, and perhaps even a revenue stream. All this while attempting to also steer a way clear of ethical and reputational risks.

Education policy in England, as elsewhere, assumes the effectiveness of market competition in driving up performance. In Higher Education (HE) this has resulted in rising fees, competition for students, and institutions jostling for position. The impact of corporate language and culture is evident in the increasing focus on the “business case”; on marketing and branding. The stratified nature of the sector is reflected in the way universities and other higher education institutions market themselves to distinguish their offer, construct their identities and position themselves in the “market”.

In the schools sector, the same policy assumptions have resulted in the “academies programme” and increased privatisation and diversification. By September 2015, 64% of secondary schools and 16% of primary schools had been taken over by private trusts. Continue reading