Alternative and vocational HE are in the news again, but – as Bill Esmond – explains – these modes of delivery have a long and fascinating history.
Last night The Guardian kicked off a major new investigation in to how some private HE colleges are abusing student loans. These revelations, along with those that are planned to follow it over the coming days, are damaging to the whole sector. With the Queens Speech just days away, the Government has one final chance to provide the legal underpinning to allow respectable institutions to thrive, and crack down on those that are exploiting the system.
I carry with me at all times a 2009 report for Universities UK prepared by the legal firm Eversheds. Why? On page 7 of ‘Developing future university structures’, you will find a diagram entitled ‘A model for university buyouts’. I suggest you look at that diagram and then read the stories about London Metropolitan University’s intentions to ‘outsource’ all staff besides teaching staff and vice-chancellor. What they are doing is something new; they aim to create a vehicle to run universities across the UK.
Should the embryonic for-profit sector of British Higher Education be given the same access to public funds as other universities, and what would happen if they were?
There is plenty of competition between publicly funded universities, and a very wide range of student choice by programme of study, type of institution, geographical location and reputation. Whatever one thinks of the White Paper and the new system of student funding, it is very evidently introducing student choice by price of qualification as well; from 2012, students will be able to choose programmes of study that will range in price from below £6,000 to £9,000 per year. There is no inherent need for a large for-profit sector to provide future students with a “genuine alternative”.
Yesterday saw BPP University College announced their 2012 fees are set at £5,000. This could be a game changer. It is the first announcement from the David Willetts-endorsed ‘new wave’ of private providers, putting BPP under a considerable amount of scrutiny.