One of the research participants in the TOUCANS project recently commented that, since English university students are now covering the full cost of their tuition by paying fees of up to £9,000 (as opposed to previously where they paid around a third of that and the state subsidised the rest), it is no longer true to talk of ‘publicly funded research’. The students are paying for their lecturers to carry out their research, except in specific cases where funding grants have been given.
What does this mean for the open access movement, I wonder? It’s hard to disagree with the notion that publicly-funded research and teaching resources should be made available to the public under open licences, but does the same apply when the ‘customer’ is paying? I think yes, since the ‘customers’ (in the form of paying students, who are part of broader knowledge communities within and across their various disciplines) have more to gain by open access than by closed, password-protected access.