It seems to be generally agreed that, in common with other publicly funded activities, the external regulation of universities has increased in both scope and specificity, particularly since the early 1980s. There have been various attempts to account for this and to assess the benefits and detriments. This chapter outlines the historical context in which the developments covered in the book took place and reviews some of the relevant literature. It concludes by proposing a model for analysing the regulation of universities’ teaching and learning.

In May 1991 there were 1.176 million students in UK higher education, 748,000 full-time and 428,000 part-time (Government Statistical Service, 1993: 7). Numbers had risen rapidly since the mid-1980s due chiefly to the success of the new General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in improving retention rates in post-compulsory education and also to the Government’s intention – announced in the Secretary of State Kenneth Baker’s speech at Lancaster University in January 1989 (Baker, 1989) – to expand the system so as to bring UK participation rates into line with those of our major industrial competitors.