From practical idealism to the ideology of the market: Whitehall, Westminster and higher education 1963–1983

Spencer, Maureen P. (2015) From practical idealism to the ideology of the market: Whitehall, Westminster and higher education 1963–1983. International Journal of the Legal Profession, 22 (1) . pp. 27-49. ISSN 0969-5958 [Article] (doi:10.1080/09695958.2015.1071258)


Drawing predominantly on Cabinet and departmental papers in the National Archives, the article reviews ministers’ and civil servants’ changing perceptions of the objectives of higher education in the decades between the Macmillan and Thatcher administrations. It gives an overview of two major reports, the 1963 Robbins Report on Higher Education and the 1971 Ormrod Report on Legal Education and suggests that some unresolved dichotomies are contained within their predominantly humanistic philosophy. It concludes with an examination of the launch of the Thatcher administration's embrace of an overtly market-based ideology in the early 1980s. A key document is a report prepared in 1983 for Prime Minister Thatcher by the Cabinet Office's Think Tank, the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS). The Report on Higher Education is in a series of files titled ‘Responsiveness of Higher Education to Market Forces and Employment Needs'. The commissioning of the Report, newly released under the thirty year rule, suggests that Thatcher took a keener personal interest in higher education than historians had hitherto appreciated. Universities and colleges were early targets for the implementation of market-based reforms in public institutions. The article concludes by arguing that official reticence in addressing the theoretical underpinnings of concepts of the public good from the 1960s onwards contributed to making higher education all the more vulnerable to the inroads from the neo-liberal consumerist ideology articulated in the CPRS Report.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 21 Aug 2015
Research Areas: A. > School of Law
Item ID: 18000
Depositing User: Maureen Spencer
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2015 12:12
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2019 19:33

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