Student fees are set to rise to between £6000 and £9000 per year from 2012 (see Will students be Browned off?. But I’m sure you know that already! Not surprisingly, there has been considerable debate about the effects on student debt and whether potential students will be put off from applying to university. But there is another issue, explored in the article below. This is the question of the ‘marketisation’ of higher education.
With the exception of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) universities will no longer receive any teaching subsidy from the government. Teaching will have to be funded from student fees. This means that provision will depend on supply and demand. If there is a high demand for certain courses, then the courses will be financially viable for universities. If not, they will have to close (unless the university chooses to cross-subsidise them from other profitable courses).
This might be fine if the market for university places were perfectly competitive and if questions of inequality of access were fully taken into account. But the higher education market is not perfect. The article looks at some of these imperfections and why, therefore, a pure market system will fail to achieve the optimum allocation of university places.
Browne’s Gamble London Review of Books, Stefan Collini (4/11/10)
- What information failures are there in the market for higher education places?
- What externalities are involved in higher education and will this lead to an over or underprovision of higher education in a pure market system?
- Apart from externalities and information asymmetries, what other market failures apply to the market for student places in HE?
- What are the arguments for subsidising non-STEM subjects (as well as STEM ones)? Should these subsidies vary from course to course and from university to university?
- What is the best way of tackling the problem of unequal access to higher education?
The market for food in the UK is highly competitive. From dining in style to a simple take-away, one of the key words when it comes to dining seems to be choice. Competitive prices and high quality are on offer, which is largely due to the sheer number of restaurants available to consumers. However, consolidation seems to be on the menu.
Nando’s is a well known restaurant and a popular eating destination on UK and Irish high streets, with more than 230 restaurants. This chicken restaurant group has made a £30 million bid for Clapham House, the company behind the Gourmet Burger Kitchen chain with 53 branches. Clapham’s shareholders were advised to accept the deal and on the 17th September 2010, it is reported that a deal was reached with Nando’s Group Holdings and its private equity owner Capricorn Ventures International. The 74 pence per share deal was met with disappointment by some analysts, who felt that the company was under-valued, despite failed attempts by Clapham House’s Board to persuade Capricorn to raise the offer price or find an alternative bidder.
The restaurant industry has suffered from the recession and especially by the weak economic recovery, so perhaps lower valuations are to be expected. Nando’s said:
‘As macroeconomic weakness has persisted in the UK, the trading environment for restaurant businesses in the UK has been difficult. This is evidenced by Clapham House’s vaolatile weekly trading performance.’
Nando’s intend to invest significantly in Clapham Houses’ businesses to reinvigorate their previous competitor. This may be essential, given the expectation that conditions in the UK will remain fragile, with consumer confidence staying low, as well as a somewhat untimely rise in VAT in January next year, which is almost certain to have an adverse effect on the restaurant business.
This take-over deal is not the first in the restaurant industry and nor is it likely to be the last, as the UK economy remains in a vulnerable state. The following articles look at this and over takeovers.
Nando’s to buy Gourmet Burger Kitchen for £30m BBC News (17/9/10)
UK restaurants serve up £50m in takeover deals Management Today, Emma Haslett (17/9/10)
Nando’s swallows Gourmet Burger Daily Mirror News, Clinton Manning (18/9/10)
GBK team plots next move after Nandos deal Telegraph, Jonathan Sibun (18/9/10)
Nando’s to buy Real Greek chain for £30m Independent, Alistair Dawber (18/9/10)
Mithcells & Butlers and Nando’s to feast on rival restaurant chains Mail Online, Ben Laurance (17/9/10)
GBK owner Clapham agrees to Nando’s offer Reuters (17/9/10)
- What type of takeover is Nando’s purchase of Clapham House?
- Why has the weak macroeconomic environment adversely affected the restaurant industry? What might be the impact of next January’s rise in VAT?
- Will Nando’s takeover (or indeed any other takeover in the restaurant industry) allow the company to prosper from the weak economic climate?
- In which type of market structure would you place the restaurant industry in the UK? Explain the characteristics of the market structure you choose and why you have placed the restaurant industry in it.
- How was the finance for the deal raised by Nando’s Holdings Group? What other sources of finance are available to firms for this purpose? What are the (a) advantages and (b) disadvantages of each?
- What other takeovers have occurred recently in the restaurant industry? What types of takeovers are they?
One of the biggest consequences of the recession has been a rise in unemployment. As the economy fell deeper into recession, unemployment began to soar and some believe that it could reach 3.5 million and remain high for the next decade.
But while many employees have lost their jobs or had they pay frozen, some of the biggest earners have received substantial pay rises! The bosses of the FTSE 100 companies have seen their average pay increase by 10% and have shared pay rises of more than £1 billion in the past year.
So as the economy plunged into recession and companies lost much of their value, we still saw an increase in the pay gap in the UK. The following articles look at the pay situation of some of the top bosses.
10% pay rise for the top bosses This is Money, Ryan Kisiel (14/9/09)
Guardian Executive Pay Survey 2009: Should pay be capped? Guardian (14/9/09)
What they make: The highest paid Chief Executives in Digital Media Guardian (20/3/09)
Executive pay jumps despite recession: Report Associated Press (14/9/09)
Unemployment could reach 3.5m and remain high for a decade, CIPD warns Telegraph, Martin Beckford (14/9/09
- How are wages determined in the labour market?
- Why do different people receive different wages? What should happen if two people receive different wages for doing the same job?
- What are the different (a) types (b) causes of inequality?
- Would a maximum price work if it was applied to wages?
- Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different wages. If everyone was paid the same, would everyone be better off?
Walk down any street in the country, and you’re bound to see a Sky dish. With subscribers still increasing, a viewing target of 10 million by 2010 and revenue increasing to £1.4 billion, it seems that Sky TV is hardly suffering from the current ‘challenging conditions’ besetting so many firms.
Enter Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK’s communication industries that has been investigating the UK Pay TV industry since 2007. A consultation was published on the 26th June 2009 in which Ofcom indicated that BSkyB should be forced to make its premium sports and film channels available to rival broadcasters in a bid to ‘promote choice and innovation’. The articles below look at this conflict.
Sky may have to share TV channels BBC News (26/6/09)
Ofcom may set Sky’s wholesale prices Digital Spy, Andrew Laughlin (25/6/09)
Ofcom proposes measures to improve competition in pay TV Ofcom (26/6/09)
Pay TV Phase three document: Proposed remedies Ofcom Consultation (26/6/09)
BSkyB in war of words with Virgin Media and BT Guardian, Leigh Holmwood (24/6/09)
BSkyB keeps Premier League rights BBC Sport, Football (3/2/09)
Sky will fight Ofcom over Premium TV Tech Radar, Patrick Goss (26/6/09)
Pay TV market investigation: Consultation document Ofcom (18/12/07)
Sky asked to open up Premium sports and movies Times Online, Peter Stiff (26/6/09)
All believers in a competitive market must back Ofcom to take on Sky Telegraph, Neil Berkett (26/6/09)
Ofcom: Sky not playing fair with premium content Tech Radar, Patrick Goss (26/06/09)
- How well does BSkyB fit into a monopoly position for its premium content?
- What are the regulatory options open to Ofcom?
- How does Ofcom aim to introduce more competition and fairer prices into the Pay TV market?
- Why is it argued that competition is in the public’s best interest? Do you agree with this, or should BSkyB be allowed to carry on as it is?
- What has enabled Sky to become such a dominant force?
- How do you think the collapse of Setanta will affect this debate?
- Sky TV has seen its profits continuing to grow. Given that we’re in a recession, what does this tell us about Sky and the type of good or service that it supplies?
The recession of the past few months has taken its toll on organic farmers. Until recently, the industry was booming as consumers switched to products perceived as greener, healthier and more ethically produced. Now, as many consumers are feeling the pinch, they are switching to cheaper foodstuffs. The resulting decline in demand for organic food has turned profit into loss for many organic farmers. According to the first of the linked articles below, at least two organic farmers are leaving the movement each week.
But what will happen as the economy recovers and people start turning back to organic products? Given that it takes some two years to convert to organic standards, there could be supply shortages next year.
As UK shoppers tighten their belts, organic farmers feel the squeeze Guardian (11/4/09)
United Kingdom-Organic slowdown Farming UK (12/4/09)
Can the organics survive the current economy? Limerick Post (10/4/09)
- How close to perfect competition is the market for organic foods?
- What determines whether an organic farmer should continue in the market even though a loss is being made?
- What can you conclude about the income and price elasticities of demand for organic produce and the cross-price elasticity of demand for organic food with eating out?
- What is likely to happen to the market for organic food over the next two years?