Simon Jenkins in the Guardian (old article):
Willetts has celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Robbins report with a pamphlet questioning one aspect of the expansion it stimulated. Pre-Robbins, British universities devoted 60% of their time to teaching and 40% to research. Now those percentages are reversed, so that universities are “lopsided away from teaching”. Only in the former polytechnics does teaching predominate.
Today’s students may not realise how far this has gone, but their graduate parents might. Contact time has declined. Essay writing has halved. Fifty years ago two-thirds of students received oral (as well as written) feedback, now two-thirds get none. Willetts wonders how this was ever allowed to happen. The answer is easy. Willetts and his Whitehall predecessors made it happen. Universities have become creatures of government, paid to do what government says. Ever since Thatcher abolished the arms-length university grants committee and eventually “nationalised” higher education in 1988, universities have followed the money.