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BPP wins university college status as David Willetts acts on pledge to boost private providers

BPP College of Professional Studies has become the first private provider to be awarded the university college title for more than 30 years.

The for-profit institution, which was given degree-awarding powers three years ago and offers courses in areas such as business, law and accountancy, will be the only private university college in the UK.

David Willetts, the universities minister, said today’s announcement showed that the coalition government was “committed” to creating a more diverse sector to help improve teaching, learning and access.

He 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, such as web-based distance learning.”

BPP, which became part of the international education giant Apollo Group last year, is the first private institution to be awarded the title since the University College at Buckingham – now the University of Buckingham – was created in 1976.

The private college has a network of study centres in city-centre locations across the UK and offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as well as short courses, summer schools and other training programmes for professionals.

Although publicly funded institutions given degree-awarding powers often go on to become university colleges, the announcement will be seen as an indication of the coalition’s intention to involve the private sector in widening access.

Mr Willetts has spoken of his wish to see “new entrants” in the sector, and floated the idea of some providers offering degrees validated by established institutions.

Carl Lygo, BPP’s chief executive, said a quality private sector in higher education was “crucial” and that his company had plans to expand in the years ahead.

“Becoming a university college is another major step in our journey, and we have some exciting growth plans for the next five years. These include expanding into other sectors, increasing our range of programmes and providing highly flexible methods of study,” he said.

“The education landscape is changing and over the next decade we will see a different picture emerge, where both students and employers will drive demand for their preferred method of study and training,” he added.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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