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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Research Projects

Publication details

Hunt, Stephen A. & Boliver, Vikki (2020). Private providers and market exit in UK higher education. Higher Education

Author(s) from Durham


The sudden closure of higher education providers is virtually unknown among publicly funded higher education institutions in the UK, but “market exit” is commonplace among private higher education providers. The UK government is actively championing the expansion of private higher education providers despite a dearth of research on the factors associated with a heightened risk of market exit within this part of the UK higher education sector. We set out to fill this gap in knowledge by utilizing existing data on private higher education providers active in the UK in 2014 supplemented by newly collected data on the status of these providers in 2019. The likelihood of market exit was higher for more recently founded providers, those operating for profit, those specializing in Business or IT or else having no particular specialization, and those located in London—all features that represent areas of greatest competition in the private higher education sector. Further risk factors associated with an increased likelihood of market exit were no external quality assessment, no access to publicly backed tuition fee loans, and the removal of the legal right to recruit international students. This second set of risk factors suggest that it is not just denial of revenue streams that increases the likelihood of market exit but estrangement from an officially regulated higher education system.

Department of Sociology