New university college


The development of the OU needs to be understood within the broader development of the HE sector and that sector changed in July 2010 when the London-based BPP, which has 14 regional branches, was permitted to become a university college.

BPP College of Professional Studies has been allowed to award degrees since 2007 and now has 6,500 students taking courses in its law and business schools and a further 30,000 taking accountancy qualifications. It is owned Apollo Global, part of the same group that owns the University of Phoenix – the largest private for-profit university in the USA. Thsi makes it different to the University of Buckingham and the College of Law both of which have degree-awarding powers but are also in the not-for-profit sector. They are not companies.

Whereas the OU was created to be open, this new body is focused on profits, .How does it compare in terms of price?

Professor Jonathan Kydd, dean of its external degree system at the University of London claims that its degrees come in at around ‘around £3,500’. OU students fees are about £4,560 for a UK student for a BSc (Hons) in Psychology, based on 2008 prices (and bearing in mind that a degree could take six years or more to complete).  This is less than the £10,000 or so for a traditional university or the £17,880 in fees that students pay for the 9-term two-year undergraduate degree at the University of Buckingham (£29,520 for international students). BPP charges £9,675 (UK) and £19,500 (international students) for its BSc Business Management or BSc Professional Accounting.

However, even if the BPP, which offers online learning facilities, does not compete with the OU on price its existence and new status indicates that the conventions of higher education are under scrutiny. Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the Million+ group of new universities, argued that

Today’s announcement suggests the coalition will favour private universities, where the motive is to deliver profits for a holding company and for shareholders, at the expense of publicly funding universities.

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