Using statistics, documentary evidence and commentary from academics and academic trades unions, this article analyses

the key features of U.K. government policy towards higher

education in England since 1979. The focus is on England

because the details of policy and policy implementation vary

between the four nations of the U.K. My findings support the view that, over the whole period, successive governments established increasing central control over the higher education system and mobilised it to meet goals compatible with government interpretations of the national interest. In the process, the total number of

students in U.K. higher education has trebled, the average cost of a

student place has almost halved and the proportion of income from

public funds has fallen to 55% (Universities UK 2007).