So where does all the surplus money go? There is one monopoly that education institutions have: the ability to certify a student's achievements. This is a key area of focus for the management of colleges and universities who, as businesses, are less focused with actual education but more concerned providing the certificates (and thus more stats). The principals of many UK colleges earn more than the Prime Minister; many university vice chancellors earn a salary in excess of £250,000. In itself not a problem but it sets the bar for working out the salary of the subsequent burgeoning sub-strata of senior management. Student fees do not pay for an education, they pay for the education establishment to support itself.
Nobody wants to be operated on by a surgeon who is self taught via The Dummies Guide to Brain Surgery. But not all subjects carry this level of risk. The Open University is one of the most highly respected universities in the world and mainly delivers knowledge based subjects. OU courses can be thought of as guided self learning. However even they are still locked into irrelevant academic calendars. The Internet itself has long held the promise of becoming the great educator. But e-learning continues to stutter along often trying to impose old linear methodologies to the constantly evolving digital world. But technology is no longer separate from our daily lives. E-learning is no longer a separate entity; it is now fully absorbed into general learning. We carry the knowledge of the world in our pockets so why would a student need to attend college to use their computer equipment and library?
There is a new approach to using technology in education that goes some way towards separating education and education establishments. They are called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). These are essentially free courses open to everyone - in fact the more the merrier, there are no limits to the number of students enrolled at any given time. All course materials are provided on-line for free. All students are treated equally and can often work at their own pace. Having completed the course (including coursework and/or exams) students can then decide if they would like to be certificated for which they pay a fee.
In this new landscape tutors have become curators of knowledge, no longer drip feeding to fit academic calendars and targets but opening the floodgates of all that they know. They become a learning partner to students; both parties being challenged by new ways of thinking and being introduced to new pools of knowledge.
We live in an age where knowledge has been set free. The potential for education is huge and it will not allow itself to be held back by the institutions that once empowered it but are now increasingly its jailer.