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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 September 2007, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Private business to award degrees
lawyer's wig and gavel
The college is to expand its law and business courses
A company has been granted the power to award higher education degrees, the first permitted to do so in the UK.

The Privy Council awarded the right to BPP College, part of training company BPP Professional Education, which offers law and business courses.

Degree-awarding powers are granted indefinitely to publicly-funded higher education institutions in the UK.

In England and Wales they can be given to private organisations subject to Quality Assurance Agency approval.

Established in 1992, BPP College already has more than 5,000 postgraduate students.

In this first year of the new powers its law school will offer the legal practice course and bar vocational course as masters degrees and award the graduate diploma in law as an honours degree.

It will be offering masters degrees in commercial law and other areas of corporate and commercial practice from September 2008.

The law school is in four locations: Leeds, Manchester, and Holborn and Waterloo in London.

The business school in London will be expanding its business programmes to include masters degrees in accounting, finance, insolvency, taxation, actuarial science, marketing, management and human resources.

Charity

BPP is not the first private institution to have degree-awarding powers.

The College of Law made that breakthrough in 2006, offering a graduate diploma in law for England and Wales.

The college, which trains students to become solicitors and barristers, is the biggest provider of legal education in Europe.

The University of Buckingham, the UK's only independent higher education institution, has been awarding degrees since the late 1970s - but it is a not-for-profit organisation registered as an educational charity.

But BPP College is the first avowedly commercial enterprise to enter what has hitherto been the preserve of publicly-funded universities and colleges.

It is owned by BPP Holdings plc, a publicly quoted company on the London Stock Exchange. BPP Holdings shares rose about 10% on the news.

'Vital contribution'

In a statement, the college said the grant of degree awarding powers had followed "a very full and careful audit and review" by the QAA over 18 months.

This had looked at its organisation, governance and management as well as closely scrutinising its quality assurance mechanisms, academic standards and support systems for students and staff.

College chairman and principal, Carl Lygo, said he was delighted with the outcome.

"The decision recognises the vital contribution the private sector can make to education and training as well as the confidence the public can have in BPP College's standards, quality assurance mechanisms and the integrity of its awards.

"BPP College has strong links with the professions, and law firms in particular, as well as a powerful regional and national presence.

"Both its law and business schools are good examples of employer-led education and training."

Concerns

In this, the move is a sign of the times with a drive to improve UK employees' skills and get more employers involved in training.

But the general secretary of the University and College union, Sally Hunt, said higher education was not a tradable commodity, but a commitment by student and provider to a learning experience.

"Students want to graduate with a qualification which they, and others, can rely on.

"If providers need to make profits then they are under pressure not just to supply courses but to supply degrees.

"Under this pressure quality is put in doubt and degrees become something that can be ?purchased' if you go to the right supplier."




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