You are here

Law school becomes first private university

28 July 2010

The magic circle-backed college BPP has become the first private university under a new government initiative.

The University and Colleges Union has described the decision as a “slippery slope” for higher education.

But former barrister Peter Crisp, who is chief executive of BPP’s law school, said: “I see no tension between the desire to change people’s lives and making a profit. Where is the tension in that?”

BPP College of Professional Studies, which trains more than 5,000 law students each year, has been rebranded BPP University College after receiving government accreditation.

Universities minister David Willetts said: “It is healthy to have a vibrant private sector working alongside our more traditional universities.

“International experience shows a diverse range of higher education providers helps widen access, focuses attention on teaching quality and promotes innovative learning methods.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said on Monday: “Today’s news could mark the beginning of a slippery slope for academic provision in this country.

“Encouraging the growth of private providers and making it easier for them to call themselves universities would be a disaster for the UK’s academic reputation. It would also represent a huge threat to academic freedom and standards.”

Several City law firms, including the magic circle’s Slaughter and May and Freshfields, uses BPP’s LPC course exclusively for its trainees, which is taught mainly by ex-professionals as opposed to academics.

Mr Crisp, a former Chancery barrister, said the move would give students the kudos of a traditional university education without the compromises associated with state-funded institutions.

Describing BPP’s courses as targeting directly at the “rigours of practice” as opposed to “just a liberal arts education”, Crisp added: “Students are not a nuisance to us, they are not getting in the way of other things we need to be doing. Our staff are not conventional researchers publishing endless books… [which is] not necessarily a criticism of higher education.”

The private company was granted degree-awarding status in 2007. The chief executive, Carl Lygo, said he sees his firm as a “pioneer” in the changing education industry and predicts that by the next decade, students and employers will drive demand for training as opposed to academics.

But union leader Hunt, who has vowed to investigate the private sector closely, added: “It is essential that David Willetts listens to our finest minds instead of being wooed by a private sector more interested in profit than probity. Private providers are not accountable to the public and do not deserve to be put in the same league as our universities.”

Categorised in:

Legal Aid Education Local government