BPP awarded university status

BPP has been awarded university status, following confirmation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) that the private provider meets the criteria for the title.

It is the first time that a publicly-owned private company, rather than a charity, has been made a university. BIS was advised by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), which measured the provider’s academic governance, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which was tasked with examining corporate and financial governance and student numbers.

Independent reports from long-term training partner Eversheds on BPP’s governing structure and from PwC on BPP’s financial position and record of good management were also submitted. 

Dean and CEO of BPP University’s law school Peter Crisp welcomed BPP’s move to university status. He made reference to BIS’s thorough review and added: “We give students what they want and need: practice-facing programmes which will equip them for the world of work.

“It’s a culture of professionals teaching professionals – all our staff have practical professional real-world experience which hugely enriches the classroom experience.  Our quality is second to none and we are no more expensive than the vast majority of public sector providers.”

In an internal memo to staff, BPP group CEO Carl Lygo said: ”Conferring this status on a publicly owned private company was ground breaking and it was necessary for the coalition parties to all be in agreement before granting permission for the status to be conferred. The secretary of state, Vince Cable, and the minister for universities, David Willetts, agreed the order to confer full University status on BPP.”

He added: ”Gaining full University status for BPP is incredibly important as it has greater worldwide recognition (helping us both with recruitment of students and expanding internationally) and reflects the confidence the Government and the Privy Council has in the soundness of BPP’s quality teaching, finances, management and governance. This is your success; your hard work day in day out to help our clients has played an immense role in gaining this honour for BPP.”

Universities and science minister David Willetts said in a statement: “We welcome BPP’s announcement. This is an important step towards increasing the diversity of the higher education sector. A wide range of higher education providers helps broaden access, focuses attention on teaching quality and promotes innovative learning methods.”

BPP, a subsidiary of US education giant Apollo, came under fire last month (17 July 2013) after parent company Apollo was warned by the American higher education watchdog that its flagship private university, the University of Phoenix, was likely to be breaching governance rules.

At the time, legal education commenters told The Lawyer that concern over Apollo’s American operations could damage BPP’s bid for university status, submitted in January 2013, but spokespeople for HEFCE and QAA said that the bodies were at the final stages of their reviews and refused to be drawn into speculation.

BPP became BPP University College in 2010 (26 July 2010). The University College title is reserved for specialist organisations who have degree awarding powers but have less than 1,000 students or have not been examined by BIS. 

BPP’s primary competitor, the University of Law, formerly the College of Law (CoL), was granted university status last November (22 November 2012). The university was given degree-awarding powers in 2006 and its upgrade to university status followed the agreement to sell CoL to Montagu Private Equity and the planned establishment of a Legal Education Foundation with the proceeds of the sale (17 April 2012).