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The ‘debate’ on Times Higher Education Supplement about BPP getting ‘University’ status goes on…and on….

I don’t suppose that I added much when I posted this early this morning…
Charon QC 28 July, 2010
@Gary

Yes… you are probably right. Governments of all complexions tend to be persuaded by the *Five millions flies eat shit – ipso facto, shit is good to eat* line of argument.

But there we are – that’s democracy for you – and just because a reasonable body of opinion tends to think that any teaching institution can be a ‘university’ however good (and BPP is good) doesn’t necessarily mean it is right .

Does it matter? No – not if you want every college in the country to become a ‘university’ on the premise that it is not part of the defining ethos of such an institution to be involved in research.

We shall see, in time, whether the term ‘university’ continues to have any real meaning. In the meantime – I shall nip orf to think of other things.

Always good to see Black Psyops in action… the above from Legal Week Student!

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My attention was drawn to a debate on The Times Higher Education Supplement website this morning about the new University status conferred on BPP

Comments on this on the THES website before I engaged are here, with the original story

I decided to put a number of points.  This is the exchange so far…..

Charon QC 27 July, 2010

Carl Lygo

Hi Carl

Let me deal with a number of points:

1. Freedom of Information Act

You state…”What you fail to mention above is that those bodies that inspect BPP are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and so the reports in relation to BPP are available. The QAA reports about BPP College are on the front page of our website, so you could not get much more public than that. Students are entitled to information through the Data Protection Act etc. We have an independent chair of our council, with independent members (who have a majority vote), with external examiners from Uk HEI’s, independent representatives on programme approval panels etc. So BPP has in place a lot of external scrutiny.”

It took me a great deal of time and prodding of your colleague Peter Crisp, CEO, of BPP Law School to get access to the QAA report. I had a range of excuses, including ‘The QAA report is a confidential document’ for his not being able to provide this – despite the QAA saying to me in writing that BPP was at liberty to publish if they chose to do so.

I wrote about this several times:
Below is a link to one of these pieces, from which it is possible to track back

https://charonqc.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/legal-education-and-the-freedom-of-information-act/

For you to now trumpet that you publish the QAA report on the front of your website – when it took many months for you to do so is at best ironic at worst disingenuous.

The College of Law – for the record, published the QAA report into degree awarding powers immediately I asked for access to same.

They, too, are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

BPP is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. I believe that both BPP and the College of Law should be subject to FOI

2. The Bar Vocational Course

It is well reported in the legal press that BPP was investigated by the Bar Standards Board for over subscribing on the Bar Vocational Course.

For the benefit of readers who do not follow legal education in detail – here is a short post I wrote covering this:

https://charonqc.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/the-bar-standards-board-report-on-bpp-law-school-oversubscription-on-the-bvc/

I understand that BPP law School is subject to what may be called ‘special measures’ or supervision for the next two years

This is Condition 1 from the Bar Standards Board report – please correct me if I have quoted inaccurately:

“Prior to making any offer for the courses commencing in Sept 2010, BPP must engage the services of an independent statistician or similar expert, (name and CV to be approved by the BSB) to review all available admissions data for the previous 5 years and clarify that in his/her professional opinion the number of offers that BPP wishes to make should not lead to over-recruitment. This certification is to be provided to the BSB before any offers are made, and thereafter the number of offers made by BPP shall not exceed the certified number. This procedure is to be repeated for the courses commencing in September 2011 and September 2012.”

I am delighted that BPP has got degree powers and university status – but it is right that your new university college should be subject to scrutiny.

Hopefully the Freedom of Information Act will apply – although peter crisp, CEO of the Law School in two podcasts he did with me – in the public domain – indicated that he would be quite happy for BPP Law School to provide the same information required of public sector institutions.

  • David 27 July, 2010 overfilling courses – an omen….While BPP has undoubtedly done a lot of good in professional training, the query from Peter above (Do BPP have to control student numbers as other institutions have to else find themselves under penalty) is interesting.There are controls of student numbers for all organisations, but BPP has already been pulled up for overfilling courses. The Bar Standards Board limits students on the bar training course for example, and BPP faced an enquiry and is only accredited to run the course in future on condition that they comply with the BSB conditions and recommendations.It remains to be seen if this new status will make them more or less responsible.
  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 For the record… while I write ‘pseudonymously’ as Charon QC on my Charon QC blog – I am not anonymous.My name is Mike Semple Piggot. I have been in legal education for 30+ years – and, ironically, founded BPP Law School with Charlie Prior, then CEO of BPP Holdings plc, in the good old days of 1990.
  • I am not connected in any way with BPP or any other organisation – and I am delighted that BPP has got this status – but, equally, I think it only right that the College should be scrutinised, scrutiny which students and employers who pay the fees are entitled to expect?
  • Carl Lygo 27 July, 2010 If you look at the front page of our website under the text “Approval by the Privy Council” you will get the report I said was on the front page of our website. http://www.bppuc.com/BPP was founded by 3 Accountants, Brierly, Price and Prior hence the origination of the name.You can’t have it both ways – we have the BSB report in to BPP’s over recruitment on the BVC made public and yet you say we are not open to scrutiny.As I said before reports from QAA, BSB, SRA etc are all available to be inspected either from our website (in relation to the ACDAP/QAA report) or from the regulators website.

    I suspect we will be blamed for the dull summer weather next!

    Carl Lygo, Principal of BPP University College

  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 Carl – I can’t find anything on your website about BPP being responsible for the recent spell of dull weather.I am quite happy to go back over the many months of correspondence I had with Peter Crisp to determine exactly how long it took BPP Law School to publish the QAA report.Final question: Do you feel that BPP University College should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act so that you are – to use a phrase BPP used when applying for degree awarding powers – on a fair and level playing field with the traditional public sector universities?

    A supplementary: Will you be asking David Willetts MP to put this in hand?

  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 Carl: One last thought? : RESEARCHWould you agree with the proposition that a ‘University’ is traditionally regarded as engaging in both teaching and significant public research for the common good?

    If so – what plans has BPP University College got to engage in significant research in Law, health care, teaching et al (anfd any other degrees you decide to teach)?

    If you do not plan to engage in serious research to current public university standards would it be fair or unfair to say that the title ‘University’ is rather meaningless and is just a bit of puffery demeaning to the established sector?

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    Prisons minister says criminals could cut jail sentences by saying ‘sorry’

    • Crispin Blunt wants victims to confront offenders
    • Restorative justice would lead to ‘rehabilitation revolution’

    Guardian

    It seems, however, that Cameron has slapped this rather good idea down…..

    See John Hirst, writing on Old Holborn’s Blog – a thoughtful piece and well worth reading.

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    The bizarre case of Earl Spencer, his divorce lawyer…and seven little piggies

    The Daily Mail reports: “One of the country’s leading lawyers told the Earl that he had named his sow’s piglets after the character traits of a High Court judge – including ‘self-regarding’, ‘pompous’ and ‘pillock’….. The insults were revealed by Princess Diana’s brother as he prepared to sue the lawyer over the handling of his divorce. After the Earl handed £5.65million to his ex-wife last year, Sir Nicholas Mostyn emailed him about Lord Justice Munby, who heard the case.The keen farmer, now a High Court judge himself, said his sow had given birth, adding: ‘The piglets will be named: James, Munby, self-regarding, pompous, publicity, seeking, and pillock…’ The insults were included in a writ Earl Spencer issued last month in the High Court.”

    Bizarre indeed.  The Mail notes that Mostyn and Munby are, however, good friends…so there should be little difficulty between the learned friends.

    Fast-track deportations from UK ‘unlawful’

    BBC: The fast-track deportation of foreign nationals refused permission to remain in the UK has been declared unlawful by the High Court. A judge ruled that the Home Office policy meant people were being given “little or no notice” of removal and were deprived of access to justice…… Home Office lawyers argued that the deportation policy was “sufficiently flexible” to avoid any human rights breaches, and that detainees were given as much notice as possible before removal

    Well, on this occasion the High Court disagrees.  That’s the trouble with law… it can get in the way of new policies. Back to the drawing board again for the Home Office.  Given the number of Home Office ‘disappointments’ recorded in the press one wonders why the people working there don’t have a look at the law before acting or, at the very least, consult their lawyers.  Perhaps they do?  I’m not sure which is worse…not consulting the law in advance or acting after taking advice from the lawyers!

    The graphic above comes from a post I did on a quite remarkable statement by a lecturer at BPP recenttly….

    Actually, I take the “BPP is a sausage factory” criticism as a compliment – Katie Best, BPP Business School

    First private university in decades to be created

    BBP, wholly owned by US company Apollo, has been granted university status. Report

    It will be interesting to see what happens – the plan is to go into health and teaching degrees. Fees at BPP for their degrees, while not on the BPTC scale of nigh on 15k p.a. are likely to be higher than traditional universities – at least until traditional universities are allowed to put their fees up.  They are set, for the moment, at the same level as the maximum fees permitted to be  charged by traditional universities..  One of the problems that BPP will face, of course, is ‘currency and value’.  There is a pecking order of universities in the United Kingdom based on quality. There is not the same perception of law schools providing professional training at LPC and BPTC level  to anything like the same extent.  BPP University College will, I suspect, have to start at the very bottom of the university degree reputation pile – as they have no track record on degree teaching of any substance yet.

    The only issues of any worth considering are these: (a) Can BPP hack it in a competitive and well proven university degree sector? (b) Will a BPP degree be worth anything to employers? (c) Will BPP degree holders be able to compete with the very best students from the top universities? and (d) Will BPP be able to expand their business without damaging the reputation they enjoy for law and accountancy training?

    A fifth question could be: Does BPP University College plan to do any ‘research’ or is this likely to be a costly inconvenience to the business of running a business and  teaching?  These are the questions students and their competitors will and should be asking.

    Only time will tell.  It shouldn’t take long to get an objective market assessment.  I shall return to this shortly in more detail.

    As for Mr David Willetts’ statement  (The government minister responsible for the decision) …“I am delighted that, less than four months after coming into office, we are creating the first new private university college in more than 30 years.”

    This is serial bollocks, of course.  The Coalition government did not build BPP or Apollo.  They did.  All the Coalition government has done is rush into a decision.  We shall see if they get credit for doing so or criticism…in time.

    The BBC reports:”But Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union, attacked the creation of the new university college as a threat to standards in higher education.

    “Today’s news could mark the beginning of a slippery slope for academic provision in this country,” she said.

    “Encouraging the growth of private providers and making it easier for them to call themselves universities would be a disaster for the UK’s academic reputation. It would also represent a huge threat to academic freedom and standards.”

    “Private providers are not accountable to the public and do not deserve to be put in the same league as our universities,” said the leader of the lecturers’ union.

    BPP University College of Professional Studies Ltd (The full name of the Institution)  – which I assume has to be the vehicle for this given the grant of degree awarding powers was to this wing of BPP – is NOT subject to The Freedom of Information Act and is therefore NOT accountable nor transparent.  It took me some time to get the QAA report from Peter Crisp, the Dean of BPP Law School.  This must change if there is to be an honest and fair ‘level playing field’ between public and private sector.  It is not known at this stage whether Mr Willetts has considered this aspect – or even if he had it in his mind when making the decision. The new University is not a British owned university.  It is owned by Apollo, an American firm.  This may or may not be a disadvantage…and does it matter?  We shall see.

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