The College of Law has gone private, while King’s and Kent are relying on donations
Poon: Harvey Nichols owner donated £20m to King’s College London
The College of Law’s controversial rebrand has put its private/public sector dealings firmly back in the limelight. The new moniker, University of Law, is almost the final step on the university’s path from charitable education foundation to privately-owned, for-profit university.
The last step will be the release of funds in the form of the £200m-plus proceeds of the sale to Montagu Private Equity. The money will be used to provide students with £7m-£8m worth of scholarships, grants and bursaries every year.
The scholarships and change of brand is not confined to the college - or university. King’s College London’s (KCL) £20m gift from Hong Kong businessman and Harvey Nichols owner Dickson Poon saw its school of law renamed in his honour and a £2m-a-year scholarship fund established.
A spokesperson for KCL says: “They’ve decided to open up scholarships to everybody and anybody. Ultimately what they’re looking for is not only academic brilliance but to look beyond that to if this person will change things and wants to do some good, whether as a lawyer or a business leader, in government or in an NGO, they’re looking for someone to impress and wow them. They’ve got to have something extra.
“One thing we all have to have in common as trade barriers open up is respect for each other’s law. King’s wants to promote the understanding of transnational law. Dickson Poon understands what it takes to do business between East and West and has invested funds specifically for scholarships and teaching staff.”
Philanthropists such as Poon are invaluable to publicly-funded institutions. The University of Kent will, over the next five years, receive a £500,000 donation from Hong-Kong based alumnus Kennedy Wong to extend the law school’s facilities.
Alison Coles, director of development and alumni relations at the university, says: “It [philanthropy] is going to get increasingly important. It’s very difficult to see the Government putting any more funding into higher education and we are having to find additional streams - one of which is philanthropy.”
The University of Law’s £200m bombshell is under wraps for now. Until the Montagu sale is finalised it will not release any more details on how the scholarships might look or who will be eligible.
Vice-chair of the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society Heather Iqbal-Rayner says of the university’s scholarships plan: “This in principle looks fabulous - if it is genuinely going to be available to those from lower-income backgrounds, if barriers are not going to be set too high. We don’t know if it’s going to be for GDL or LPC students yet. It’s the best thing the College of Law has ever done, to be quite honest.”
While scholarships have been welcomed, the university’s rebrand has received scathing comments on Lawyer2B.com. Perhaps Poon, who clearly knows the power of brands, has some advice.