Accepted Paper:

English Higher Education: From a Public Good to an Impaired Asset  


Sveta Milyaeva (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on accounting techniques for UK student loans to analyse how their monetary value is constructed based on them viewed as a measure of a public good or financial assets, thus addresses questions of the conceptualisation of difference between goods and assets.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyses the current transformation of higher education in England from being regarded as a 'public good' to being accounted for as an 'impaired asset'. The focus of the analysis is student loans and the construction of their monetary value through accounting techniques. Science and higher education was once seen by economists as a good characterised by non-rivalrous consumption and non-excludability (Stiglitz 1999) and was heavily financed by public money in the UK. With the introduction of full tuition fees in 2012, substantial and income-contingent loans for home and EU undergraduates in England resulted in a surge in national public debt. However, student loans have also become assets in government department accounts, albeit of a peculiar nature - their value is impaired as their worth is less than their cost.

Drawing on the recent engagement of the STS community with assets in all types and forms (Birch and Tyfield 2013, Martin 2015), and their formation through attribution of value (Muniesa 2012, 2014), we look into the construction of the monetary value of a good (measured by national debt) and an asset (undervalued on department books). In so doing the paper argues that the budgeting and accounting of student loans is crucial in understanding how the monetary value of a good and an asset is constructed. Higher education thus provides a site to address questions of the conceptualisation of difference between goods and assets.

Panel T005
Turning Things into Assets