New Labour’s public policy agenda, in education as elsewhere, has been driven by the twin goals of widening access and raising attainment through the implementation of new managerialist policies and practices. New public management has its origins in a neo-liberal philosophy which holds that all human behaviour can and should be measured and – in order to achieve efficiency, effectiveness and value for money in the public sector – all activity should be measured against agreed targets (Deakin, 1994; Clarke and Newman, 1997). The higher education sector exemplifies this approach, where targets have been set by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in relation to, for example, student retention and completion rates which feature in league tables.