This paper offers an application of non-linear programming to the funding system for polytechnics in England. The proposed model is used to anticipate the likely impact of government policy on institutions. One novel feature of the model is the authors’ decision to not make use of an objective function in the analysis. This decision is examined and justified. In particular, it is argued that, in this way, the application of non-linear programming can be extended as a descriptive tool in social sciences.