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Diversifying delivery in higher education

How are innovative alternative models of higher education being developed in the UK, and what are the barriers to further innovation? Joy Carter introduces the latest inquiry from the Higher Education Commission.

Creating a level playing field not as easy as it looks

The Higher Education and Research Bill has been heralded by Jo Johnson as a game changer for the fortunes of alternative providers, but there are still many barriers to sector entry, as Catherine Boyd has found out.

Understanding the alternative HE sector: the first HESA release

HESA has recently released it’s first dataset of alternative higher education providers. Joy Elliot-Bowman of Study UK has dug into the numbers which will help the established sector better understand the new ‘challengers’.

University Challengers

The White Paper is keen to open higher education up to ‘challenger’ institutions. But in which English counties are they going to be located? There’s a challenge.

The challengers (and challenges) in higher education market reform

The government’s new White Paper on higher education heralds a shakeup to the HE market with new ‘challenger institutions’ set to proliferate. Andrew McGettigan reviews the paper, it’s new measures for reform and all the problems with its approach.

New providers, new analogy

With the Green Paper indicating that the Government is seeking to further break down barriers to entry for private providers, Mike Ratcliffe tries to compare apples and oranges. Or Byron and McDonalds. Or chalk and cheese. Pick your own analogy, wonks.

The accelerated level playing field

Andrew McGettigan casts a forensic eye over the Green Paper’s proposals on market entry and exit, degree awarding powers, alternative providers and the government’s desire to create a ‘level playing field’.

BIS failed to heed warnings about HE privatisation

A report released today by the powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) strongly criticises the government for disregarding warnings about the dangers of vast sums of public money being given to for-profit higher education colleges.

The rising tide

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.

Winners and losers in the current system

There is no doubt that, as with most changes, the £9,000 fee system introduced in England in 2012-13 created winners and losers. We know that applications are back up for full-time undergraduates – and we know this includes students from non-traditional backgrounds, which is great. But that is not the whole story. On the day the Public Accounts Committee confirm the rising costs of writing off loans, Libby Hackett looks at the winners and losers in the current system, and calls for a fundamental rethink.

What is a private university?

What is a private university? The latest big UK HE news is that the for-profit Regent’s College has been given the right to use the title “university”, and will become “Regent’s University London”. The Guardian says that it “will become only the second private university in Britain”… which I’m not sure is the case. It is definitely a university. And it is definitely in Britain. But is it private? And does it count as the second one? Well, it depends what you mean by a private university. This post takes a look at what these terms mean, and gathers together details of the recent changes that have taken place primarily in English HE which have muddied waters both public and private.

NCH – new company structure

Private investment is about to boom in the UK and we need to be clear about the complex mechanisms being employed. Something bugs me about Anthony Grayling and the way he presents New College of the Humanities. Nothing is ever quite as it seems. This is an investigation into recent changes to NCH that will be of interest to anyone paying attention to the way the sector is changing behind the scenes.

London Met – outsourcing? or something else?

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.

The Pearson BSc

The media today has been covering the public launch of Pearson College. The new offering from the education publishing giant sees it move into full undergraduate degrees from the HNCs and HNDs it offers through its subsidiary, the examination board Edexcel. This post looks at the interesting changes to Pearson’s business model that have taken place which tells us a lot about the current state of HE reform.

The College of Law: misunderstandings continue

The College of Law put out a press release on 17 April to announce the expected conclusion of the sale of their legal education business to the private equity firm Montagu. The sale of a private HE provider with degree awarding powers isn’t unprecedented, but it is unusual enough to have made the news. Unfortunately, the news reports have got some significant aspects of the story wrong because they don’t understand how degree awarding powers are regulated, and the College’s press materials on the issue were unhelpfully worded.

Not for profit

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”.

Fear the future campus wars

There’s a long tradition of student politics and activism at university. Sometimes it has been in response to wider political concerns such as wars or cuts. But other times it has been specifically targeted at university management in order to force a change in policy. The past twenty years have seen a step-change in the professionalisation of university leadership, with modern governance practices embedded, clearer lines of accountability drawn and more transparent systems of change deployed. At roughly the same time, students’ unions have undergone a similar process of professionalisation. This has resulted in a very different campus culture emerging over the past twenty years – where it was once an adversarial relationship, students’ unions are now seen as partners in ensuring a high-quality student experience.

Between Public and Private

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.

On the New College of the Humanities

It was reported in the Sunday papers that A.C. Grayling is setting up a new university in the mould of the American liberal arts colleges – and charging £18,000 per year in fees. He’s attracted some of the UK’s best-known academics – Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson et al – the lineup reads like a fantasy university teaching league. Based in London’s brain; Bloomsbury, the venture (a bone fide David Willetts fantasy) is bound to draw significant interest. Grayling has stated that he wants his new university to rival Oxbridge – though there are a number of reasons why he might struggle to provide genuine competition with the ancients.