New university college - sign of things to come
26 Jul 2010
The granting of university college status to BPP is an interesting sign of radical changes ahead for higher education in the UK. It lends status to the offshoot of a huge US-based, for-profit company that is looking to expand in Europe.
This is the first time that university college status has been awarded to a private provider since the creation of Buckingham University College (later Buckingham University) in 1976.
BPP is part of the Apollo Group, a market-listed US company which owns and operates the University of Phoenix, a private university in the USA which offers degrees through distance-learning.
In 2004, the University of Phoenix was fined $9.8 million by the US government for unethical practices in recruiting students. web.archive.org/web/20071007232951/http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/education/39028 At the time, the Apollo Group denied any wrongdoing.
BPP College of Professional Studies runs law, business and accountancy courses at several sites in the UK. It says it now plans to expand into other areas, providing a wider range of courses.
It focuses particularly on postgraduate vocational courses, where students pay high fees which are often subsidised by, for example, law firms sponsoring new entrants. However many students pay their own fees.
The growth of private providers will pose a challenge to public-sector universities that run the full range of courses. The loss of lucrative post-graduate students to colleges like BPP would, in particular, affect the bottom-line at many institutions .
If BPP University College expands at anything like the pace of the University of Phoenix the UK won't know what has hit it. Starting in 1976, Phoenix now has a staggering 476,000 students currently enrolled on its courses.
However Phoenix - which provides part-time distance-learning to many low-income, federally-supported undergraduates - aims at a rather different market than BPP. Phoenix has been controversial and has faced criticism over its academic standards. www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/education/11phoenix.html
The University of Phoenix has often been the subject of media investigations but it has rejected many of the media claims made against it. See, for example: www.phoenix.edu/about_us/media_relations/for-the-record/Fact-Check-of-New-York-Times-Article.html