University of Law increases diversity but further regulation needed

A Mills & Reeve partner has welcomed the increased diversity brought by the newly-created University of Law but cautioned that further regulation is needed to ensure a level playing field.

Claire Clark said: “it is encouraging to see increased diversity within the higher education sector. Not only will this move strengthen the sector’s market position, but it will boost perceptions of the UK higher education system as a brand and enable the sector to compete on a global scale.”

She added: “There is some uncertainty over how it will be regulated. Private providers are being able to access the Student Loans Company – that is access to public money – and are not subject to the OFFA (Office for Fair Access) over how they operate. There is the suggestion that the government would like to regulate their access to student finance, but that’s a matter for the secretary of state.”

“The playing field isn’t quite level. The government wants more privately funded players… private equity will enable providers to put additional money and infrastructure into brand and expanding globally. People may be concerned as to whether it’s going to affect quality but by the same token public institutions need to be sustainable.”

The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has released information on how much tax payer money is received by private providers in the form of the Student Loans Company.

Of the top five private education providers, the only legal educator to feature is BPP, which also provides education in many other fields. It received £9.3m for 1,070 students during 2011-2012. The College of Law received £128,000 for 50 students in the same period.

Overall, over 12,000 students at 110 education provider accessed £100m during the last academic year. There is a clear trend showing the increase of the number of private education providers receiving funding as the figure has steadily increased from 64 in 2006-2007 to the current 110.

The figures were published in a BIS consultation on applying student number controls to alternative providers with designated courses, which opened on 28 November.

In November, the College of Law announced its rebrand. (22 November 2012)