Exploiting the exploitable: The financialisation of students in English universities


  • Rebecca Boden Tampere University
  • Wilson Ng (Regent’s University


Funding sought by England’s universities from the private and unregulated capital market has produced significant change in the nature and functioning of their borrowing as they adapt to look attractive to and meet the requirements of their financiers. We suggest that the unregulated finance sector, part of the burgeoning number of financial intermediaries worldwide, is a de factomajor actor in the development of higher education in England – an influence iatrogenically enabled by government higher education policy. We focus on the complex interplay between government policy, universities, and financial intermediaries to reveal how processes of financialisation are now impacting university communities. Of particular concern are students, whose fees now constitute a securitised income stream for universities, from which they plan to repay their borrowings. As such, students have become securitised assets, their interests subservient to the need to ensure a steady income stream to satisfy private financiers. It follows that the public benefit mission and ethos of universities has also been undermined, possibly fatally.