This paper is based on a range of scenarios developed in a HEFCE funded project contributing to the development of a framework for the future of Higher Education (HE) in the UK. In considering the policy implications of the scenarios, five quite different futures for HE in the UK are presented. The paper challenges the current discourse of HE, offering alternatives on a continuum from the 'elitist' provision that history maps, to a 'popularist' corporate provision that contradicts the very 'idea' of a university itself. All the scenarios are possible and indeed probable according to policy decisions made by governments now. By exploring the implications of key policy decisions now, this paper outlines issues for sectoral lobbying, and identifies areas that individual institutions may want to consider with regard to a longer term view.
Paper presented at the Society for Research into Higher Education Annual Conference (SRHE 2009), Newport, United Kingdom, 08-10 December 2009