BPP university graduation ups the education ante

For-profit BPP university move broadens market but does it ‘increase diversity’?

Well, what a shocker. They’re all at it. Becoming universities, that is.

The news that BPP has become the latest provider of legal education to slap a ‘university’ sticker on its for-profit business has not yet caused as much of a stir as when the College of Law adopted its University of Law moniker in November last year.

Most The Lawyer readers thought that move was just plain tacky. 

“Sounds like one of those dodgy colleges set up above a souvenir shop on Oxford Street for visa scams,” sneered one.

But BPP’s move should cause a bigger reaction. The University of Law and BPP are evenly matched in terms of legal education but BPP is a much bigger player in the wider sense. It provides legal, accounting, business, marketing and even nursing qualifications, and is owned by the American group Apollo, which was warned just last month that its pride and joy, the University of Phoenix, was likely to be breaching US education rules. In a country that lets students in some states go to high school and university at the same time, that takes some doing.

Of course, the Quality Assurance Agency and Higher Education Funding Council for England have examined BPP and passed it on all counts. But still, one has to wonder who universities minister David Willetts was thinking of when he said BPP’s move would help with “increasing the diversity of the higher education sector”. He was careful with his semantics at least.

Replace ‘sector’ with ‘market’ and it’s a different, and increasingly recognisable, ball game.