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Archive for October 12th, 2009

Legal Week reports: It has also been confirmed that BPP Law School, which last month asked for volunteers among its BVC students to defer for a year, exceeded its allocated numbers of 456 by 80. This figure includes both the full-time and part-time BVC courses run by BPP in London and Leeds. It has since been reduced to 63 as a result of deferrals and withdrawals.

However, BPP Law School chief executive Peter Crisp told Legal Week that BPP has sufficient numbers and quality of staff to deliver the course to the extra students.

“We are a large, well-resourced law school and therefore able to cope with an additional 60 students on our BVC. Our reputation is built on the quality of our provision and we have the staffing and accommodation to teach the additional students in place. Although the over-recruitment is regrettable, the demand for places this year is testament to our reputation as the leading provider of the BVC.”

An additional 60 students on the BVC course brings in a fair bit of additional income – income straight to the bottom line and pure profit.

BPP fees for the BVC (Full-Time) are £14700 for London and £11,950 for Leeds.  The part-time course fees are roughly half for each of the two years of the part-time course.  Without knowing the precise mix between full-time and part-time fees  the additional income could be anything between £0.5 million to £800,000.

Legal Week reports: A statement issued earlier today (2 October) by the BSB reads as follows: “The BSB takes this matter very seriously due to the quality assurance issues such over recruitment can cause. Both cases are currently being considered by the Bar professional training course subcommittee.

“Further meetings on this matter will be taking place with both providers to ensure that the quality of delivery of the course is not diminished and that the interests of the students currently on the course are not affected. The BSB is also seeking explanations from both providers as to why the current situation has arisen and the measures they will be putting into place to prevent or limit the possibility of it occurring again.”

This is, to use the  vernacular…taking the ‘piss’… or to put it in rather more professional terms – a serious breach of the rules and, frankly, a breach of the principles of fair competition with other law schools which are able to get their administrative procedures right.  Other providers, save for Northumbria, have not broken the rules.  Other providers whose administrative procedures would seem to be far superior in terms of getting the numbers right  are not enjoying the extra booty and income.

We shall have to wait and see whether the Bar Standards Board take this seriously enough to impose a sanction on BPP Law School in terms of additional quality assurance / resource  provision  – particularly as BPP now enjoys degree awarding powers granted by the Privy Council. If I was the CEO or Dean of a law school offering the BVC, – I know how these things work.  I was the first and founding CEO of BPP Law School back in the 1990s –  I would be extremely irritated that BPP Law School and Northumbria seem to be flouting the rules with impunity.  An excess of 80 students (since reduced to 63) in the case of BPP Law School (30 for Northumbria) cannot, credibly, be put down to ‘simple’ administrative error –  it is a ‘serious’ administrative error  and  it would not be unreasonable for the BSB to require a tightening of BPP’s internal administration.  I cannot imagine that BPP would do this deliberately to ramp up the share price for the acquisition – a well known rumour which was going around – and which I discount entirely.

We shall, in time hopefully, learn the result of the BSB investigation into BPP and Northumbria if the BSB make their report and findings public  – which is not unreasonable to expect given the ‘public interest’ on this this issue.

While Peter Crisp is confident of BPP Law School’s ability to resource the additional 60 students – and he certainly has in excess of £0.5 million to do so. His assertion that over-subscription (while ‘regrettable’) is testament to the quality of BPP’s position as the ‘leading provider’ of the BVC is little more than PR guff and bluster,   may well be questioned by Deans of other law schools and, frankly, looks a bit lame in the context of this academic fiasco. No law school can support a claim, credibly, to be the leading provider of the Bar Vocational course (in my view)  for the very simple reason that we do not get to see the detailed inspection reports on BVC providers. There is, therefore, no truly independent yardstick students can use to measure quality of provision other than a law school’s marketing and word of mouth.  The SRA, by contrast, does publish inspection visit reports which are of some value to students in determining which law school they wish to attend. Perhaps the BSB may like to consider  their position on inspection reports for the future?

When I spoke to the Bar Standards Board I asked if students would be prejudiced. The BSB made clear that no students would be forced to leave the course.  This, effectively, puts the BSB in a very difficult position because they, quite rightly, will not prejudice students by requiring them to leave the BPP course. The BSB is acting in the interests of the students and the profession to ensure that Bar courses are run to high standards and should be commended for investigating both BPP and Northumbria thoroughly to ensure there is no repeat of this next year.

Degree awarding powers re-visited

Given that BPP has been purchased by Apollo, an American education group –  and through BPP has degree awarding powers in any subject – it is all the more important that BPP plays on the same level playing field as universities and should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act requirements. 

While The College of Law is prepared to make public the report of the QAA to the Privy Council which led to The College of Law getting degree awarding powersBPP continues to refuse to make their QAA report public. The only reason given to me by BPP for not releasing the report was that they received the report in confidence.  The Chairman of the QAA confirmed to me that BPP were at liberty to release the report if they wished to do so.

I have written to Peter Crisp, the CEO of BPP Law School, to ask him again if he is prepared to release the QAA report on degree awarding powers.  BPP Law School is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and despite Peter Crisp saying to me in two podcasts that BPP would be happy to provide information in the same way as universities subject to the FOI  are required to – BPP made it very clear to me that they would not do so for the reasons set out in this blog post I wrote earlier in the year.

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College of Law Inside Track Podcast:
Tom Kilroy – Misys plc, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Company Secretary

I talk to Tom Kilroy, Executive Vice President,  General Counsel and Company Secretary of Misys plc. Tom  gives a fascinating insight into the work and role of General or in-house counsel stressing the differences between general practice and in-house legal work and stresses that anyone who wishes to become a General Counsel should get experience with a firm first and be hot on financials and business context.

Listen to the podcast

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Popehat reports: “Today marks the 150th anniversary of one of the greatest political and legal declarations in American history: the October 12, 1859 decree by Joshua Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico. If we ran the schools, every schoolchild would be required to memorize the words of the only monarch ever to preside over the United States ”

I rather like people who give themselves awards – I do, often (I am now, it would appear,  a 3 star Michelin Chef. Astonishing, reall).  Emperor Norton decided many years ago to go for the big one.  Popehat’s Blawg Review # 233 is thorough and surveys a great deal of writing on legal blogs – it is a good read.

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